The Shack

by

William P. Young

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The Shack: Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Over the next few days on their camping trip, Mack and his family make friends with two other families—the Ducettes, who have two young girls about Kate and Josh’s ages; and the Madisons, a Canadian couple. Together, they take a tram up to a mountain lookout. Carrying Missy on the way back, Mack wonders why his kids have to grow up.
Even before his encounter with God, Mack sees love and relationships as the central and most important aspects of his life, as demonstrated by his devotion to his children and the ease with which he becomes friendly with others. 
Themes
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
That evening, the families all enjoy a cookout together. Later, while the kids are off playing and the Ducette parents have gone to bed, the Madisons ask Mack about Nan. He tells them about his beautiful wife and her work with terminal cancer patients, helping them to develop a closer relationship with God—like the relationship Nan herself has. Even though the conversation has gotten a bit personal for Mack’s taste, he lets slip that he doesn’t feel as close with God as Nan does, and also that his own father had mistreated him before his death.
Mack explicates the different approaches that he and Nan take in their respective relationships to God. Nan is able to see God as a friend or parent, relating to him closely. But Mack has never been able to achieve that closeness, perhaps because of his troubled relationship to his own “religious” father. Mack has a harder time extending the trust and love he has for his direct family members to God himself. That trouble forming a close bond with God is reflected by his guardedness in relating to other people, even those whom he likes, such as the Madisons.
Themes
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
The Nature of God Theme Icon
The next morning, Mack and the kids begin cleaning up the campsite. Frustrated by several mishaps, Mack finds himself snapping at his children. As Kate and Josh go to play in the Ducette’s canoe one last time, Mack watches Missy coloring at the table.
Mack loves his children and their family dynamic is dominated by that care, as demonstrated by simple moments like Mack watching Missy color. At the same time, Mack will sometimes become distracted by frustrations, letting his annoyance or judgment get the better of him and cloud over family interactions.
Themes
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Josh and Kate try to wave at Mack from the canoe, but they flip it over in the process. Kate emerges quickly, but Josh stays under. Full of adrenaline, Mack runs to the water and dives in to find that Josh’s life vest is caught in the canoe, trapping him under. After a couple of attempts, Mack is able to flip the canoe and use mouth-to-mouth to bring Josh back to consciousness. He knows God is responsible and feels relieved that the crisis has been averted.
Mack sees God as an all-powerful being who sometimes chooses to intervene when he sees tragedies are about to happen. In this view, it logically follows that tragedies that do happen must be caused by God willfully ignoring, or even causing them. This outlook helps Mack to feel a sense of appreciation and closeness with God when tragedies are narrowly avoided, as when he saves Josh from drowning. But it also means that Mack thinks that God is responsible when tragedies do happen.
Themes
Independence from God Theme Icon
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
The Nature of God Theme Icon
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