Misery

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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"The book Stephen King wrote in an attempt to keep other people from becoming authors."

Novelist Paul Sheldon is trapped in the snow after driving to get his latest work published. Thankfully, he is rescued by Annie Wilkes, a former nurse. She claims that she is his No. 1 fan and loves his Misery novels, as well as their main heroine Misery Chastain. However, the next Misery novel is released while he's in her care, and Annie finds out that Misery dies at the end. She becomes enraged, and forces Paul to write a new novel that undoes Misery's death. Paul, being too injured to leave her house, is totally dependent on Annie, and so begins his fight to find a way to write Misery back to life, all while Annie subjects him to all kinds of elaborate and gruesome humiliations.

What follows? A lot of meditation about writing, some amazingly suspenseful (and horrifying) moments, a huge Deconstruction of Fandom, the revelation of Annie's past, and some cheesy romance.

In 1990, a film based on the book was created starring James Caan as Paul and Kathy Bates as Annie with Lauren Bacall in a minor role. A few details aside, it's very faithful to the book and was critically acclaimed. Bates' role is considered to be one of her best, and she took home the Oscar for her psychotic Bitch in Sheep's Clothing. Was good enough to be included in Bravo's One Hundred Scariest Movie Moments.

In 2009, Lifetime released an original movie with a plotline somewhat similar to Misery called Homecoming.

Tropes used in Misery include:
  • Abhorrent Admirer
  • Adaptation Distillation: The movie forgoes any of the new novel nor the analogies to writing. Paul's ankles are also crushed, instead of his foot cut off; his thumb remains happily on his hand, and Paul's addiction to his pain medication is left out.
    • It's also interesting to note that in the novel, it's pretty clear right off the bat that Annie is certifiably insane. From the moment Paul regains consciousness he is able to assess that Annie is mentally unstable. However, in the film, Annie is originally played off as kind and hospitable person, albeit a bit eccentric. The audience and Paul don't realize just how deeply she is disturbed until later in the movie.
  • Affably Evil / Evilly Affable: Annie Wilkes
  • Alone with the Psycho: Buster in the movie, and Paul in a broader sense.
  • Antagonist Title: Paul hates Misery but the character's popularity precludes him from being a more serious writer.
  • Arc Words: Can You?, Africa, goddess, "Now I must rinse..."
  • Ascended Fangirl: What Annie Wilkes thinks she is...
  • Auto Cannibalism: Annie cuts off Paul's thumb, uses it as a candle on a birthday cake, and threatens to make him eat it.
  • Back from the Dead: The whole reason why Misery's Return started to be written.
  • Bad Samaritan
  • Battleaxe Nurse: Annie is a registered nurse, and a violent and psychotic one. Also, she's wielded hammers, so her having an actual battleaxe may not be too far off.
    • In the novel, it was an axe instead of a hammer. And a blowtorch to cauterize the wound.
  • Berserk Button: By the end of the story, Paul knows better than to correct Annie. Also, swearing also makes Annie really mad.

Paul: Dom Perig-non it is.

  • Big Bad: Annie Wilkes. Rather fitting since she's described as being a huge woman in the novel.
  • Big Eater: A rare, non-comic version of this. When Annie gets into her 'moods', she basically binges like crazy.
  • Non Sequitur Scene: The rare in-universe example. At the very end of the book, after his hallucination at the restaurant, Paul sees a small child going by with a skunk in a shopping cart, The oddness of the entire image inspires him to write a novel speculating on what the heck was going on with the kid.
  • Book Within A Book: Misery's Return, of course. The reader gets to see bits of it, particularly passages that mirror Paul's situation.
  • The Caretaker: The whole reason for this plot is because Annie Wilkes decided to take it upon herself to be this for Paul rather than calling 911 or taking him to the hospital herself. It does not go well.
  • Cat Scare: Paul adopts a cat at the end of the book and it startles him by popping out from behind the couch. He thinks it's Annie at first and that she's invincible.
  • Cliffhanger Copout: Annie accuses Paul of this, when he first attemts to revive Misery by simply rewriting the end of the last book so that she never died. She brings up an example of her favorite childhood serial Rocket Man. In one episode, the Rocket Man was locked into his car, which then fell off a cliff and exploded. The next episode showed the Rocket Man jumping out of his car in the last minute, which made Annie extremely angry, because "that wasn't what happened last week!"
  • Clueless Deputy: Duane Kushner, the young state trooper in the book. Justified since he is a rookie.
  • Creator Backlash: Paul really hates Misery, and quite happily kills her off.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Paul.
  • Deus Ex Machina: Discussed. Paul realizes that Annie knows it in all but name.
  • Dies Wide Open: Annie, in the movie.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The novel is a parable for writing. For example, the amputation of body parts are analogous to the author having to cut parts of a book they like.
    • In On Writing, King notes that Annie Wilkes is a metaphor for his drug addiction. "Annie was (drugs and booze) and I was tired of being Annie's pet writer." With, of course, the dependence and isolation and exhaustion that go with addiction.
  • Death by Childbirth: Paul had to pay big for making Misery have this fate.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Annie is rather fond of this.
    • In the book, Annie cuts off Paul’s thumbs when he makes a mild complaint about the paper she purchased for him.
    • In the book, Annie’s scrapbook mentions she murdered a hitchhiker she picked up. It’s heavily implied it was because Annie made a pass at him and he ignored it.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending
  • Enfante Terrible: Annie. See Serial Killer below.
  • Even Bad Women Love Their Mamas: She keeps a framed portrait of her mother in her parlor and in the book, says that her mother was the only person to stick up for her.
  • Everything's Better with Penguins: No, seriously. Annie owns a little model of a penguin on a pedestal. It becomes surprisingly memorable. Five words: "NOW MY TALE IS TOLD!"
  • Evil Overlooker: The poster above.
  • Fan Dumb: In-universe example: Annie was extremely pissed when she found out about the new book Paul was writing, which was (in short) about a guy who stole cars. Essentially she was saying, "How dare you write anything but what I want you to write!!!" Averted, however, in that she doesn't want to be cheated via Cliffhanger Copout. She's too smart to be fooled by the cheap "resurrection" of Misery.
    • Emphasized more later on as she tries to save the burning script she screams: My Misery!
    • Somewhat averted, though, in that Paul comes to the conclusion that while Annie might be nuts, she's also correct about his writing. He realized that his novel about the car thief was pretentious drivel while Misery's Return, the book he only wrote to save himself from her, was probably the best thing he'd ever written.
  • Film of the Book: Starring James Caan as Paul and Kathy Bates as Annie.
  • Fingore: Annie cuts off Paul's thumb, and uses it as a candle in a cake.
  • Focus Group Ending: Focus groups were extremely unhappy with Paul walking normally at the end of the film, so the ending was re-shot with Paul needing a cane to walk.
  • The Ghost: Annie's mom, a great influence in the story despite being dead for who knows how long before it.
  • Good Is Not Dumb: Buster, the amiable local sheriff who figures the puzzle out. He only appears in the movie.
  • Gosh Darn It to Heck: Annie doesn't like it when your characters are dirty birds who use use cockadoodie foul language...
  • Groin Attack: See the No Kill Like Overkill example. In the film she also does one to Paul in in their struggle, perhaps the one point she is on the defense.
  • Growing the Beard: An in-universe example with Misery's Return. Paul goes as far as to consider that it might be the best book he's ever written.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Annie Wilkes
  • Hikikomori: Except to purchase food (and the next copy of Misery's romantic escapades, of course), Annie rarely if ever leaves her secluded cabin.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: Paul's agent pitches him the idea of writing a non-fiction book regarding his experience, he elegantly disregards it as a cheap shenanigan.
  • I'm Your Biggest Fan
  • I Was Quite a Looker: When Paul reads Annie's collection of newspaper clippings (called 'Memory Lane') he sees that she was "startlingly pretty" when she was young.
  • Karmic Death: Annie is killed by Paul's typewriter after being choked by paper.
  • The Kindnapper: Annie Wilkes, who, upon finding Paul Sheldon, the protagonist and her favorite author, at the scene of a car accident, decides to take him home with her rather than at least attempt to call the hospital or for other emergency help. She's figured that since she's a trained nurse, she could take care of Paul herself! And she loves him, so surely he'll love her, too, once he gets to know her...
  • Large Ham: There's a reason why Kathy Bates is nowaday best known as Annie Wilkes in the movie.
  • Loony Fan: Guess.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Not that Annie wasn't evil to begin with, mind you.
  • Love Makes You Dumb
  • Mad Doctor: Annie, killer nurse.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Paul and Annie both take turns manipulating each other.
  • Mary Sue: Misery is an in-universe example. There's a reason Paul hates her.
  • Mercy Kill: Paul theorizes that Annie sees most of her murders as examples of this. She mostly kills old and sick people - that's why she gets away with it - whom she sees as "poor, poor things", and thinks she's doing them a favor. Later, when she gets more psychotic, she starts to see babies like that, and it turns into a murderous Munchausen Syndrome.
  • Money, Dear Boy: Why Paul puts up with writing the torrid rag of a Victorian airhead whom he has grown to hate for so long: to put braces on his daughter's teeth and put her through private school and college, of course.
  • Mood Swinger: Annie can be pleasant one minute and angry the next.
    • Fridge Brilliance: Invoked by Stephen King in his memoir On Writing. He subscribes to the Show, Don't Tell school of work, and does not spell out that Annie is manic-depressive, preferring that readers work it out for themselves.
  • Mood Whiplash: Annie spouting phrases like "kaka-poopie-doopie!" in the middle of her "moods" is either utterly terrifying or darkly hilarious.
  • Most Writers Are Writers
  • Munchausen Syndrome: Not a good trait in a nurse.
  • Mythology Gag: When Annie is talking to Paul about her "good news and bad news," she mentions a hitchhiker who was sketching pictures of an old hotel whose caretaker had gone crazy and burned it down. "Famous old hotel called the Overlook."
    • When he was a kid, Paul lived across the street from the Kaspbraks
  • Nice Guy: Paul, at least in the film, where he is nothing but polite to everyone he meets, and is initially nothing but kind towards Annie until he realizes that she is... well, Annie.
  • No Kill Like Overkill: When it looks as if Paul is saved when a state trooper shows up, Annie stabs the guy with a gravemarker in the chest, in the groin, and in the butt among other places....and when it turns out he's still alive, she runs him over with a riding lawnmower.
  • Oh Crap: Every time Paul realizes that Annie is in a mood switch. Especially when she swears.

"If you can get into that chair all by yourself, Paul," she said at last, "then I think you can fill in your own fucking n's."

  • One-Paragraph Chapter: Taken Up to Eleven. "Rinse."
  • Pet Peeve Trope: In-Universe-Annie's are Cliffhanger Copout and Cluster F-Bomb.
  • Police Are Useless: Subverted and zigzagged, at first the sheriff Buster (he only appears in the movie) seems to be just a rustic old man warming a chair, but he turns out to be quite competent and thorough despite a bickering deputy who doubles as his wife. In the end he is however taken by surprise and killed, but not in vain.
  • Politically-Incorrect Villain: Annie Wilkes in the book, with her usage of the N-word to refer to the character Hezekiah in Paul Sheldon's Misery series
    • In the movie, she refers to "that Dago" who painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
  • Precision F-Strike: When Annie tells Paul to "fill in his own fucking n's", he and the audience know things are going to go bad.
    • Also used against her as Paul shoves the burnt remains of her precious novel down the "sick twisted FUCK's" throat.
    • Also later in the book (and the only time Annie actually swears in the film): "I'M GONNA KILL YOU, YOU LYING COCKSUCKER!!!"
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Annie.
  • Rasputinian Death: Annie's death could be considered this. Paul throws the typewriter at her, then starts choking her with the burning "manuscript" (which of course burns her). She looks dead for a moment, then gets back up, and then trips over the typewriter and hits her head. Then she gets up again (Paul's locked in the bathroom at this point) and crawls to the barn to get her chainsaw... and finally, she dies. Phew.
  • Retcon: Annie isn't happy that Paul killed off Misery and forces him to write a book that brings her back to life.
    • And Annie isn't happy when Paul's first attempt at Misery's Return retcons the ending of the previous book, considering it "cheating".
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Kushner in the book.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Buster in the film.
  • Sadistic Choice: Burn the book you worked really hard on to break away from your style, or go without food and water until you do.
    • In the movie, it's burn the book you worked really hard on to break away from your style, or burn yourself.
  • Saved by the Fans: Misery herself. In-universe
  • Self-Made Orphan: Annie killed her father when she was 14, by putting a heap of clothes to the stairs so he'd fall off.
  • Serial Killer: Annie Wilkes
    • Made even more creepier when the reader learns that Annie committed her first murders when she was all of 11 years old
  • Scheherazade Gambit: Paul compares himself to Scheherezade, in that as long as he keeps writing, Annie won't kill him before seeing how Misery's Return ends. And he's right.
  • Slipping a Mickey: Paul tries it, but Annie accidentally knocks the glass over.
  • The Sociopath: Annie in spades.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: A great example in the film: "Moonlight Sonata" starts to play as Annie breaks Paul's feet.
  • Stealth Pun: In the book, Annie killed a young deputy. In the film, Annie shot the sheriff, but she did not shoot the deputy.
    • Why does Annie kidnap Paul? Because MISERY loves company.
    • Also, those patients? She thought she was putting them out of their MISERY.
  • Stylistic Suck: Paul's first attempt at Misery's Return is this. Later, as he becomes more attached to the story, it's not quite sucky, per say, but it's quite distinguishable from King's usual style.
  • Sweet Tooth: Annie loves ice cream, cookies, and soda.
  • Take That: To crazy fans, Fan Dumb, cheesy romance lovers, writers who use deus ex machina...It's more subtle, but the novel also takes this view with the opposite idea, that the mentality of writing "serious" books to amaze critics and win awards isn't much better.
  • Tears of Joy: When Paul finds himself starting to write a new novel at the end, after everything he's been through, he starts to weep with joy.
  • Trust Me, I'm an X: In the novel when Annie is about to cut off Paul's leg to punish him, she says: "Don't worry. I'm a trained nurse." She is, but that doesn't make it much better.
  • Unbuilt Trope: Both the book and the film were made well before the darker side of the Fan Dumb was exposed via the internet.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Annie uses many bizarre and childish words to compensate for profanity.
    • She finally snaps and subverts this after Paul burns her novel: "I'M GONNA KILL YOU, YOU LYING COCKSUCKER!!!"
  • What Could Have Been: Paul wonders what Annie would've been like if all the chemicals would've formed right in her brain.
  • Who's Laughing Now?: After realising escape is impossible, Paul finally snaps and delivers a rather brutal last laugh to Annie.

Annie:: You can't!
Paul:: I can. I learnt that from you.

  • Would Hurt a Child: Annie's first victims were kids she babysat. Later she began killing newborns at the hospital where she worked.
  • Yandere: Oh dear lord, Annie.

Now my tale is told.