Misery is a 1987 novel by Stephen King.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.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. It was directed by Rob Reiner. 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 theBest Actress Oscar for her psychotic Bitch in Sheep's Clothing. Was good enough to be included in Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments.In 2009, Lifetime released an original movie with a plotline somewhat similar to Misery called Homecoming.
Adaptational Attractiveness: To a small degree. While Kathy Bates isn't exactly what many people would call a looker, she was at least clean and well-groomed, a far cry from how Annie was in the novel: a huge blob of a woman who dressed dumpily and stank of dirt and cheap makeup.
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.
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 a kind and hospitable person, albeit a bit eccentric. The audience and Paul don't realize just how deeply disturbed she is until later in the movie.
Another example is how in the novel, Annie makes no attempt to hide why she hasn't brought him to a hospital given the nigh immediate reveal of her insanity. In the movie, she claims to be keeping him in her home temporarily due to the roads being shut off from the storm.
Ambiguous Disorder: Annie displays traits associated with an array of mental illnesses (at the very least, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, a severe personality disorder with paranoid and borderline features, and likely some sort of schizophrenic- or schizoaffective-spectrum disorder). In a special feature on the collector's edition DVD, a forensic psychologist described Annie as a "virtual catalog of mental illness."
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..."
Bad Samaritan: Annie, to Paul. However, Paul speculates that if he didn't happen to be the writer of the novels Annie is obsessed with, she would have called the hospital and gotten him there as soon as possible, mainly to show to people like those cockadoodie Roydmans that she's a good, responsible citizen.
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.
Beware the Silly Ones: Annie has a cheery facade, uses ridiculous childish expressions like "cockadoodie," and has a retreat somewhere up the mountain she calls her "laughing place"... where she hides the body of a state trooper she murdered with a lawnmower.
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.
Big Lipped Alligator Moment: 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.
Big Guy, Little Guy: Wicks (short and slim) and McKnight (huge and muscular), two cops that show up to question Annie. Paul of course doesn't know their names when he first sees them through the bedroom window, so he dubs them David and Goliath respectively.
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.
Chainsaw Good: Annie kills a deputy with a lawnmower, and just as she grabbed a chainsaw itself to go after Paul succumbed to her own wounds.
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!"
Cluster F-Bomb: When Paul begins typing on his new typewriter, only one word comes to mind.
Also apt as Paul compares Annie to an African idol in H. Rider Haggard's novel She (published as Sie in Germany).
Contrived Coincidence: Averted in Misery's Return: Paul is well aware that it would come off as too much of a coincidence for two women in the same town to have been Buried Alive, so he comes up with a way to link the two events.
Crazy-Prepared: Annie is insane, but she is not stupid. Annie discovers that Paul has managed to get out of the locked bedroom after taping hairs from her own head over objects in the house and leaving for a while, and coming back later to find them broken. The crazy part? She did this everywhere in the house, including upstairs and in the shed out back, places it would have been almost impossible for Paul to get in his injured state. Then there is the alibi Annie explains to Paul after she kills the young state trooper: she'll take an empty Pepsi bottle and press the trooper's fingers on it, then toss it in a ditch a few miles up the road, and mention to any cops that come by that she did speak with the trooper, and she gave him a Pepsi for the road because it was hot that day.
Creator Backlash: Invoked. Paul really hates Misery, and quite happily kills her off.
Dedication: Paul dedicates the manuscript of Misery's Return to Annie.
Deadpan Snarker: Paul, in the film. After Annie puts him in the wheelchair for the first time:
Annie: Now isn't this nice?!
Paul: Yeah. I always wanted to visit the other side of the room.
Deus ex Machina: Discussed. Paul realizes that Annie knows it in all but name.
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.
The Dog Bites Back: When seeing he's likely doomed to die at her hand either way, Paul finally turns on Annie, destroying the script in front of her very eyes. When she naturally gets rather upset over this, he fends her off and gives her a good taste of her own physical punishment before knocking her out.
The End... Or Is It?: Subverted! After Paul is found by the police, they tell him that Annie's body is not in the bedroom where he left it, and the window was open. The book then jumps forward in a time skip, and it is explained that eventually they did find Annie, who only made it as far as the barn before succumbing to her wounds. He still has nightmares about her, and at one point at the end, hallucinates her jumping up from behind the couch in his darkened apartment, brandishing an axe.
In the film version, Paul is having a conversation with someone concerning his time with Annie and, as with the book version, ends up hallucinating Annie, coldly walking towards him, brandishing a butcher's knife. It's just a waitress bringing his dinner, who cheerfully tells him that she's his biggest fan. Not surprisingly, Paul comes across as a bit nervous about this.
Eye Poke: During his struggle with Annie, Paul fingers her eyes until they start bleeding.
Fan Dumb: A very mixed in-universe example. Annie was extremely pissed when she found out about the new book Paul was writing, Fast Cars, 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!!!" This is also emphasized later on when she tries to save the burning script she screams: "My Misery!" However, there are some aversions, particularly where she tears down Paul's Cliffhanger Copout in the first draft of Misery's Return, and also when Paul realizes that Fast Cars really was kind of pretentious, while Misery's Return might be the best thing he's ever written.
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.
To the point that, in the novel, it's revealed that he'd only burned the cover-sheet for the book to trick Annie into trying to save it. He'd kept the rest of the novel hidden so he could publish it after his escape.
Handicapped Badass: In the climax, Paul fights and knocks out Annie, a psychopathic murderer (not to mention in the midst of a Villainous Breakdown) and chokes her with the remains of her own book, after already having his legs shattered and arm shot.
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.
Make It Look Like an Accident: Annie murdered both her father and her college roommate with this method; he put something in a flight of stairs so they would stumble and fall down. With her father, she used a pile of clothes, with the roommate, the corpse of their cat, whom she poisoned.
Mary Sue / Canon Sue: Misery is an in-universe example. Paul is all too aware of this, and that is why he 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.
She basically sees people as either "poor, poor things" or "dirty birdies", and thinks that both are better off dead.
Minimalist Cast: In most of the book, there are only two characters: Paul and Annie.
Money, Dear Boy: Invoked. 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.
Most Writers Are Writers: Paul Sheldon is the author of a best-selling series of Victorian-era romance novels surrounding the heroine character Misery Chastain. This trope is the premise of the entire plot.
When he was a kid, Paul lived across the street from the Kaspbraks
Nice to the Waiter: Paul is mentioned as being always friendly to the staff at the hotel and never bothering anyone. In the novel, he gives the waiter who brings him his champagne a fifty dollar tip.
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.
Subverted and zigzagged in the film: at first the sheriff Buster 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.
Justified and averted in the book. The first cop that comes out to talk to Annie is young, inexperienced, and alone, and he was sent out on a shit detail to look for some numbnuts author who most likely wrecked his car in a snowstorm, then wandered off into the woods to die. However, when he doesn't report back in (because Annie killed him when Paul got his attention by breaking the bedroom window), the cops not only send out a more experienced cop, they send two of them. However, Paul weighs his chances and decides not to try alerting the pair, as there is still an outside chance that Annie might be able to kill both of them as well.
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.
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 Lion: Sherff Buster in the movie version. He spends most of the movie investigating Paul's disappearance and eventually arrives at Annie's house to question her, only to get shot to death by Annie when Paul manages to get his attention
Sadistic Choice: Burn the book you worked really hard on to break away from your style, or go without food, water, and that painkiller you're addicted to 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.
Take a Third Option: Paul does this: Just tell Annie that a stack of blank papers are the novel, and burn them, and after she dies, publish Misery's Return.
Self-Made Orphan: Annie killed her father when she was 14, by putting a heap of clothes on the stairs so he'd fall off.
Serial Killer: Annie Wilkes murdered more than thirty patients as a nurse. She got away with it because they were usually old and very sick, and thus everyone expected them to die. Her crimes only started to raise suspicion when she was trasferred to the nursery ward and started murdering healthy infants.
Made even more creepier when the reader learns that Annie committed her first murders when she was all of 11 years old.
Scheherezade 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.
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.