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Literature / Misery

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"The book Stephen King wrote in an attempt to keep other people from becoming authors."

Misery is a 1987 novel by Stephen King.

Novelist Paul Sheldon crashes his car in a Colorado snowstorm while drunk-driving to Los Angeles to celebrate finishing the manuscript for his latest book. His legs shattered, he is rescued by Annie Wilkes, a former nurse, who takes him to her isolated house in the countryside. Annie claims she's Paul's "number one fan" and loves his Misery romance novels as well as their main heroine Misery Chastain. However, the latest Misery novel is released while he's in her care, and on finding out that Misery dies at the end, the mentally-unstable Annie becomes enraged and coerces Paul – who, being too injured to leave her house and thus entirely dependent on her, hasn't any choice but to comply – to write a new Misery novel that undoes her death. Paul therefore must fight to find a way to write Misery back to life, even while Annie subjects him to all manner of deranged (and sometimes horrific) ministrations.

Rob Reiner directed a film adaptation in 1990, starring James Caan as Paul and then-unknown stage actress Kathy Bates as Annie, along with Richard Farnsworth as the local sheriff, Frances Sternhagen as the sheriff's wife (and deputy), and Lauren Bacall in a minor role as Paul's New York agent. Bates won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her acclaimed performance as Annie, making her the first (and, thus far, only) person to win an Oscar for a performance in an adaptation of a Stephen King novel. Bates's Oscar is also the only one received for any of Reiner's films as a director.

A stage adaptation, written by William Goldman (who also penned the screenplay for the film version) and starring Bruce Willis as Paul and Laurie Metcalf as Annie, premiered on Broadway in 2015 and closed early the following year.

Provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Of a psychological version rather than physically.
  • Actor Allusion: Of a sort; more like a Creator Allusion, if you will. When Annie first brings Paul the vintage Royal typewriter, he reflects that it came from a time "when there were no alloys, no plastics…also no six-figure book advances, no movie tie-in editions, no USA Today, no Entertainment Tonight, no celebrities doing ads for credit cards or vodka." Check this out.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Kathy Bates is a Big Beautiful Woman and her Annie was 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, half-spoiled food, and cheap makeup. This serves to make Annie a more sinister character in the film, as she outwardly appears to be a perfectly normal person.
  • Adaptation Distillation:
    • The movie forgoes any of the new novel and 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 clearly mentally unstable and possibly even dangerous if provoked. 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.
    • The addition of Sheriff Buster adds some much appreciated comic relief to what could be a hopelessly grim story, plus pulling a nasty Bait-and-Switch on the audience as we start to think Paul only has to hang on long enough for Buster to find him, only for Buster to be immediately killed by Annie, similar to the previous King adaptation The Shining.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy:
    • Annie is more friendly and cordial to Paul than she was in the book, even after reading Misery's Child. Her more heinous acts against him, such as cutting off his thumb and forcing him to drink soapy water, are also left out.
    • While Paul is nowhere close to unsympathetic in the novel, the film takes strides to show that he's a Nice Guy before being captured by Annie, making his ordeal even more horrific.
  • Affably Evil: Annie Wilkes is very cordial when she isn't throwing a fit, but her madness makes it hard to guess if it's genuine, fake or even both.
  • All Psychology Is Freudian: Ralph Dugan Annie's husband, in the wedding clipping Paul finds when looking at Annie's scrapbook bears an uncanny resemblance to Annie's father.
  • All There in the Script: Sheriff Buster's surname is McCain.
  • Alone with the Psycho: Buster in the movie, and Paul in a broader sense.
  • Arc Words:
    • Can You?
    • Africa
    • goddess
    • So vivid!
    • "Now I must rinse..."
    • "Now My Tale is Told"
  • Ascended Fangirl: What Annie Wilkes thinks she is...
  • Author Appeal: Paul dislikes using a word processor to write; to this day so does Stephen King, much preferring a typewriter or writing out his books by hand.
  • Author Avatar: Stephen King has revealed that the book is a metaphor for his struggles as a writer, with Paul representing him and Annie his struggles with cocaine addiction.
  • Autocannibalism: Annie cuts off Paul's thumb, uses it as a candle on a birthday cake, and threatens to make him eat it.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Buster. Without access to any forensic and just connecting dozens of unrelated clues, he tracks down Paul's whereabouts. Unfortunately, he is killed for his trouble right after showing up. And he does that mostly as a hobby, since the case is considered closed.
  • Ax-Crazy: Annie is murderously insane. Bonus points for actually using an axe on Paul at one point.
  • Back from the Dead: The whole reason why Misery's Return started to be written.
  • 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.
  • Based on a True Story: In-Universe, Paul's publisher begs him to write a non-fiction book about his dealing with Annie. Paul demurs.
  • Bathos: The idea of someone who is twisted enough to hold their favorite author hostage and put them through what is essentially torture in order to get the book they want yet refuses to use actual swear words nine times out of ten.
  • Batman Gambit: Confined to a wheelchair, Paul is completely at Annie's mercy as long as she keeps her distance and plans her attacks carefully. Paul knew that setting the manuscript on fire would make her panic, make her desperate to save it, make her forget to be careful...and suddenly she's within reach and the advantage shifts to him.
  • 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. And an electric knife.
  • Berserk Button:
    • By the end of the story, Paul knows better than to correct Annie. Also, swearing makes Annie really mad.
    Paul: Dom Perig-non it is.
    • Annie is very, very attached to her favorite character Misery Chastain, and when Annie finds out that Paul has killed her off, she gets very ugly very quickly.
      Annie: You dirty bird... How could you? She can't be dead! Misery Chastain cannot be dead!
      Paul: Annie, in 1871 women often died in childbirth, but her spirit is the important thing, and Misery's spirit is still alive.
      Annie: (violently slamming the injured Paul's bed, hurting him) I DON'T WANT HER SPIRIT!! I WANT HER!! AND YOU MURDERED HER!
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Paul is a polite guy and is sympathetic toward Annie but in the end he brutally attacks her, taking enormous glee in her suffering after everything she's done to him.
  • 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.note 
  • Big Bad: Annie Wilkes is a Loony Fan of Paul Sheldon who imprisons him when he kills off her favorite character to force him to bring her back to life.
  • 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.
  • Big, Stupid Doodoo-Head: Annie's typical brand of insults. It's when she drops this and intentionally swears that her threat level is seriously ramped up.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • The originally planned ending for the in-universe series. Misery dies during childbirth, but leaves her sterile husband Ian a healthy baby boy to raise through Geoffrey. For Paul however, when he writes about how Misery pops her clogs, he doesn't see the bitter side of it.
    • The actual ending of the book. Paul underwent incredible suffering and will be handicapped for the rest of his life, but at least he got his wish to write something fresh (though it was Misery as a Gothic romance and character study rather than the gritty crime thriller he planned) and he admits it's the best thing he's ever written. He also starts writing again, without needing Annie breathing down his neck and threatening him.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Annie's morality, such as it is, is a classic case of this. In certain ways she is almost prudish, exhibiting a childish distaste for swearing, smoking, and other types of "adult vices". She refuses to take Paul's money out of his wallet, even though she has already gone through it to confiscate his IDs. But when it comes to holding a man prisoner against his will for months, or murdering patients under her care, Annie justifies it by telling herself they are "poor poor things" that are better off dead (and as Paul realizes, she sees all of humanity as either poor poor things or "dirty birdies" that are out to get her).
  • Body Horror: The novel is truly nauseating in describing the damage to Paul's legs: multiple compound fractures that require numerous re-breakings to heal anywhere close to properly. This was thankfully toned down to three simple fractures in the film. The "hobbling" scene in the film also counts - it's a lot less destructive than what's in the book, but actually seeing a human's foot get mangled like that is horrifying.
  • Book Dumb: Annie is a strange case. She went to higher education, obtained a nursing degree, and has worked in hospitals across the country, so when it comes to medicine and triage she is very knowledgeable. She also has a few areas of practical knowledge to call upon, things a woman living alone in the mountains would need to know, such as carpentry and home maintenance (and self-defense, as Paul finds when she informs him that she took judo classes). But in most other areas, particularly areas of culture, Annie is shockingly ignorant, being unaware of basic writing tropes such as the Deus ex Machina which even most non-writers are familiar with (though as Paul comes to understand, she understands the concept in everything but name).
  • Book Ends: In the beginning, Paul has just finished writing a book. According to his custom, he drinks a glass of champagne. In the end, Paul has just finished writing another book. Annie brings him a champagne bottle and a glass. Paul asks her to bring a second glass.
  • Bottle Episode: Most of the plot is restricted to the room Paul is locked in. The film crew was even expressing delight once they finally left the bedroom set to shoot scenes in the hallway!
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: A particularly negative example. Annie is defined by her lunacy and childish behavior, but she is a very competent nurse and provides Paul with insights into making Misery a better character.
  • Buried Alive: How Paul Retcons Misery's death: a bee sting gave her a Convenient Coma, and got her buried prematurely.
  • The Cameo: J. T. Walsh appears as the Colorado Police Chief in the film.
  • 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: After escaping captivity, 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.
  • The Cavalry Arrives Late: The police arrive just after Paul kills Annie.
  • Celebrity Paradox: In the general store, VHS tapes of Roots and When Harry Met Sally... can be seen. Richard Farnsworth (Buster) appeared in Roots while When Harry Met Sally was Rob Reiner's previous film. Interestingly, Billy Crystal's character is seen reading Misery in that film.
  • Chainsaw Good: Annie kills a deputy with a lawnmower, and grabs a chainsaw to attack Paul with before succumbing to her own wounds.
  • Child Hater: Annie doesn't believe infants have souls; why shouldn't she kill them? She's also responsible for the deaths of three young children and their father as well, after setting their shared apartment complex on fire as a teenager, since the children (and their surviving baby sister) were her babysitting charges that she referred to as brats.
  • Childish Villain, Mature Hero: Paul is a somewhat snarky but still level-headed individual who swallows his pride and does things he doesn't like in order to support his family. By contrast, Annie is a middle-aged woman with the emotional age of a pre-teen who has a childish dislike of "adult" vices like swearing and smoking, loves sweet food, is unhealthily attached to a fictional character and throws what can only be described as tantrums when she gets upset.
  • Cliffhanger Copout: Annie accuses Paul of this, when he first attempts to revive Misery by simply rewriting the end of the last book so that she never died.note  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 "This isn't what happened last week! Have you all got amnesia? They just cheated us! This isn't fair! He didn't get out of the cockadoodie car!"
  • Cliffhanger: Paul subtly does this as an act of Laser-Guided Karma in the book. When he sets fire to the cover-sheet of Misery's Return, Annie never got to read the final chapter, meaning for her, it ended on one of these.
  • Cloudcuckoolanguage: Annie swears very colorfully, using expressions like "You cockadoodie dirty birdie" and "I don't care if you're John Q. Jesus Johnnycake Christ from the planet Mars!", which highlights her deranged personality. Paul calls these expressions "Wilkesisms".
  • Cluster F-Bomb: When Paul begins typing on his new typewriter, only one word comes to mind.
  • 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 — a severe bee sting allergy, and they were actually related.
    • In the novel, Annie just happening to run across Paul's crashed car, and him just happening to be the Paul Sheldon whose books are an object of her obsession, is a bit contrived as well. It's averted in the film; it's no coincidence that Annie runs across Paul—she was stalking him.
  • 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. He'd also become so disgusted with having to write about her so much that he penned a short story about Misery having sex with her love interest's dog and circulated it among his friends.
  • Creator Breakdown: In-Universe example. Annie notes that the opening chapters of Misery's Return are quite gruesome and unlike the other Misery books. Paul thinks to himself: "The man who wrote these pages was in a rather gruesome frame of mind, my dear."
  • Creator Cameo: Rob Reiner appears in the film as a helicopter pilot.
  • Creator's Pest: In-Universe; Paul dislikes Misery, and was thrilled to be able to kill her off.
  • Cruella to Animals: Annie once poisoned a cat, and used the body to murder a roommate.
  • Cute and Psycho: Annie Wilkes, though specifically in the movie.
  • Dark and Troubled Past:
    • In the film Paul mentions he grew up in the slums while defending his manuscript to Annie. In the book it's implied he grew up in Derry, which is just as bad, if not worse.
    • While it isn't brought up in the film, Kathy Bates and Rob Reiner agreed that Annie was a victim of sexual abuse as a child. Noteworthy in light of this is that in both the book and movie, Annie's father is one of her earliest victims.
  • Darker and Edgier:
    • Paul's new novel Fast Cars, about a car thief, was this in comparison to the Misery series. Annie hates it because it's not Misery, while Paul later realizes it was Emo Teen-style pretentious.
    • Both Annie and, later, Paul's publisher comment that Misery's Return is far darker than the usual Misery romance novel fluff he usually wrote. To his publisher, Paul replies that he wasn't in the best of moods when he wrote it.
  • Darkest Africa: Half of Misery's Return is set there.
  • 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.
  • Death by Childbirth: Paul had to pay big for making Misery have this fate.
  • Dedication: Paul dedicates the manuscript of Misery's Return to Annie.
  • Despair Speech: Only in the film. After a period of relative stability, Annie enters Paul's room during a rainy evening, visibly depressed. She tells him that she knows he doesn't and will never love her, and that she's afraid that he will eventually leave her.
  • Deus ex Machina: Discussed. Paul realizes that Annie knows it in all but name. He mentally notes that Annie was not just a Loony Fan, but Da Editor as well.
  • Dies Wide Open: Annie, in the movie.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: This is Annie's M.O., and it's Played for Drama. Any little thing can set her off, as Paul finds out the hard way. She finds out he wrote a breather manuscript and killed Misery; her response is to make him burn Fast Cars, the only copy, and write a Retcon where Misery is brought back, fairly.
  • 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.
  • Double-Meaning Title: Misery Chastain, and Paul's own misery.
  • Downer Ending: The original ending. It was to fade in on Annie's cabin and find a shrine bearing the only copy of Misery's Return... bound in the skin of one Paul Sheldon. Misery the pig would have eaten the rest of him. Ulimately averted when Stephen King found Paul to be a more resourceful character than he anticipated.
    King: No one likes to root for a guy over the course of 300 pages only to find that between Chapters 16 and 17 the pig ate him.
  • Dragon Lady: Namedropped but averted. As Paul discovers, Annie was given this title by the Colorado press during her trial for her misdeeds as Boulder's head maternity nurse. This isn't because of any reference to the traditional trope on Annie's part however (she's a large and unattractive Caucasian woman), but rather because of her stony remorselessness throughout the trial, even casually reading one of the Misery novels as she waited for the verdict.
  • Dressed to Heal: While the Annie of reality dresses in a very sloppy and haphazard manner, the Annie in Paul's nightmares is always dressed in the whites of a nurse.
  • Drunk Driver: Paul at the start of the novel, which contributes to his accident. Omitted in the film, where he loses control of his car after taking one hand off the wheel to keep his manuscript from sliding to the floor.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After being kidnapped, tortured and maimed, Paul eventually fights his way to freedom and the new Misery book he wrote during his ordeal is a smashing hit. In the book, he also rediscovers his love of writing after seeing the kid with the skunk.
  • 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 speaking to his agent about his confinement and, as with the book, 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.
  • Enfante Terrible: Annie. In the book, during her anger at the Cliffhanger Copout, she notes she kept screaming over and over, even though the audience didn't care and accepted it with a Willing Suspension of Disbelief, and had to be carried out as she kept it up as a Madness Mantra, hinting even as a kid she wasn't all there. And it didn't stop there — see Serial Killer below.
    • She also killed most of her babysitting charges, their father (unintentionally), and her own father (intentionally) when she was still young.
  • 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.
  • Evil Is Hammy: And also why Annie is played that (horrifying!) way.
  • Evil Overlooker: The movie poster prominently featured Annie in this manner.
  • Evil Smells Bad: Combined with You Need a Breath Mint at one point, when Annie gives Paul a quick kiss as thanks for 'loaning' her money. He notes inwardly that her breath smells dark and sour and like "dead fish". It's so bad, in fact, that Paul remembers a dusty rag Annie gagged him with and considers her breath to still be worse.
  • Eye Poke: During his struggle with Annie, Paul fingers her eyes until they start bleeding.
  • Facial Dialogue: One of the reasons why Kathy Bates's Annie garnered such wide critical praise. Even with the movie muted, just her expressions capture the essence of Annie's bipolar nature with frightening accuracy, swinging from a flattened affect during her depressive episodes to crazed levels of animated when she's manic.
  • 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.
  • Fatal Flaw: Annie's obsession with Misery clouds her judgment and makes it easy for Paul to manipulate her.
  • The 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.
  • Flipping the Bird: In the film version, Paul does this to Annie through a window after assorted traumas. She thinks he's joking around with her.
  • Forced Addiction: Though Paul does have a prior disposition towards addictive behavior (having been a heavy smoker and drinker in the past), he is at present "Mr Clean". When Annie "rescues" him from the car accident, she gets him addicted to painkillers so she can use them to keep him in line.
  • Forced Creativity: Paul Sheldon is held captive by his "number one fan," Annie Wilkes. When Annie discovers that Paul's latest book kills her favorite character, she forces Paul to write an all new book just for her.
  • Forced Euthanasia: Downplayed due to Annie's clear insanity. She had started off "mercy-killing" people when she worked as a nurse to take people out of their "poor, unfortunate" circumstances. It's clear that, due to her God complex, "they were all poor unfortunate souls."
  • Foreshadowing: Paul soon realizes there's a reason Annie's isolated from the world.
  • Franchise Zombie: In-Universe, the Misery series of romance novels. Paul himself agrees.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
  • Genre Shift: By having to rewrite the Misery Chastain series effectively at gunpoint, Paul changes the series from pulpy romantic adventures to a Gothic romance full of dark family secrets. This proves a very good thing, not just because it keeps him alive, but also because it gives him a chance to explore a character he didn't like before and take her in a new direction. He eventually comes to think this new book is the best one he has ever written.
  • The Ghost:
    • Paul's daughter in the movie.
    • Annie's mom, a great influence in the story despite being dead for who knows how long before it.
    • The Roydmans, Annie's oft-mentioned but never seen neighbors, whom she detests (and vice-versa, apparently).note 
    • Ralph Dugan, Annie's ex-husband who, by all accounts, got as far away from Annie as he could after leaving her. Smart man.
  • Going Cold Turkey: A side effect of Paul's captivity. Before crossing paths with Annie, Paul had a fairly debauched lifestyle, replete with smoking, bar-hopping and sleeping around with random women, all of which he is forcibly made to give up. Though he hates it, he does note that becoming "Mr. Clean" has had a positive experience on his writing. To add to the irony, he becomes addicted to painkillers.
  • Good Is Not Dumb: Buster, the amiable local sheriff who figures the puzzle out. He only appears in the movie.
  • Gorn: Kathy Bates was reportedly very disappointed the scene in the book in which a policeman was run over by a lawnmower by Annie wasn't kept in the film.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Annie really doesn't like it when your characters are dirty birds who use cockadoodie foul language... Paul also comes to realize that on the few occasions she actually uses outright swearwords he should be even more afraid of her than usual.
  • Got Me Doing It: Over the course of the story (more so the book, rather than the movie), Paul picks up on Annie's verbal tics, and odd terminologies. Namely, "cockadoodie".
  • The Grim Reaper: In the book, Paul comes to think of Annie as the Angel of Death, fearing her with an almost religious terror and ascribing to her supernatural qualities. Even after she's dead, the fear she hammered into Paul sees him imagining her in every shadow.
  • Groin Attack: See the There Is No Kill Like Overkill example. In the film she also does one to Paul in their struggle, perhaps the one point she is on the defense.
    • Not actually carried out in the book, thank God, but Annie does warn Paul that she'd considered cutting off his "man-gland" in addition to his foot and his thumb.
  • 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.
  • Hairpin Lockpick: Paul opens the door of the bedroom with a hairpin lost by Annie. Lampshaded by the fact that he says that it must work because it works in his books. Of course, he does mention having done his research, including lessons in lockpicking from an expert.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: What makes Annie Wilkes so terrifying is that there is often no way to know what will set her off. When she comes into Paul's room and finds that he has managed to get from his bed to his chair without her help, she is infuriated, apparently just because it lessens his dependence on her.
  • Hallucinations: While dining with his agent in the final scene, Paul briefly visualizes a waitress as Annie. It doesn't help his comfort level at all when the waitress then cheerfully introduces herself as his "number one fan".
  • 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. It helps that he's been using the typewriter as a makeshift free weight to build up his arm strength.
  • Happy Place: Annie's "laughing place", where she goes to visit when her depression is at its worst.
  • Hard Truth Aesop:
    • There's no romanticizing having only one copy of your books. Always have a backup, in case circumstances destroy it. In this case, a lady that wants it all burned.
    • For all the potential Annie Wilkeses in the world, it's that authors and other creatives don't owe you anything. They are under no obligation to make what you want them to make.
  • Hidden Depths: Annie is a repugnant psychopath, but she displays a surprisingly insightful attitude toward literary conventions. With her (very undesired) help, Paul manages to turn Misery from a shallow beauty to a surprisingly deep character.
  • Hope Spot: A gut-busting one in the film when Sheriff Buster (Richard Farnsworth) discovers Paul in Annie's basement...only to take a shotgun blast in the back by Annie not even a second later.
  • Housepet Pig: Annie Wilkes has a pet pig. Being that she is such a huge fan of Paul Sheldon's In-Universe Misery novels, it comes as no surprise that she named the pig "Misery."
    Annie: I wasn't trying to be funny in a mean way when I named my pig Misery, no sir. Please don't think that. No, I named her in the spirit of fan love, which is the purest love there is. You should be flattered.
  • Ignored Epiphany: Annie is seemingly remorseful when she chops off Paul's foot, and he nearly dies from blood loss. She treats the area and is gentle with him. It doesn't last, and the next time they have a disagreement, she chops off his thumb.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: Paul's agent pitches him the idea of writing a non-fiction book regarding his experience; Paul elegantly disregards it as a cheap shenanigan.
    • In the book Paul's reason for refusing to write the story is a little more nuanced — he knows he could write the story his agent wants, and that it would probably sell very well, but if he did it it would be tantamount to admitting he could never write again. He would be admitting that he needs Annie. As Paul puts it:
      Paul: Writing may be masturbatory, but God forbid it should be an act of auto-cannibalism.
  • I'm Your Biggest Fan: One of the most well-known examples in fiction.
  • Improvised Weapon: Paul hits Annie in the head with a typewriter, shortly after feeding her some burning papers. In the movie, she is killed with a pig doorstop.
  • Irony: The whole reason Paul kills off Misery Chastain in the first place is because he's sick and tired of writing those types of novels and wants to work on something else. Annie forces him to write Misery back to life...which leads Paul to write what he feels is one of the best books he's ever written. So much so, that what he burns at the end is simply a stack of papers. "Misery's Return" is tucked safely away, as Paul intends to bring it with him when he escapes and have it published.
  • 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 writing 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...
  • Kitsch Collection: Annie's. She realizes Paul has been secretly exploring the house when he accidentally moves a porcelain penguin.
  • Large Ham: There's a reason why Kathy Bates is nowadays best known as Annie Wilkes in the movie.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • After being forced to burn the book he wanted to publish, Paul gets back at Annie by burning the book she wanted to be the only one to read (with Paul deciding to publish it after getting out), although, in the written version, he just set fire to some paper with the cover on it.
    • What's more, in the ensuing fight in the movie, Paul hits her with the typewriter he was forced to write the book on, shoves the burnt pages into her mouth and trips her with one of his broken legs, causing her to trip and faceplant onto the typewriter.
  • Lethal Chef: Annie sort of counts. For instance, in the film she serves Paul her homemade meatloaf:
    Annie: And, to give it that extra zip, I mix a little Spam in with the ground beef!
    Paul: Ho, ho... You can't get that in a restaurant in New York!
  • Loony Fan: Annie, to the point where she holds her favorite author hostage.
  • Love Makes You Dumb: To an extent; Annie's love of the Misery novels can cloud her judgement.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Not that Annie wasn't evil to begin with, mind you.
  • Mad Doctor: Even before Paul finds out about her sordid history as a nurse, Annie serves this role to Paul himself. She positions herself as his caretaker while blithely mutilating him to prevent his escape, and uses his injuries as an excuse to get him addicted to painkillers as another method of control.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Annie's early murders were set up this way: her very first murders were of a group of kids she babysat, who she killed by burning down the apartment building they shared and making it look like a bum did it. Later she murdered both her father and her college roommate with a variant of this method; she put something on a flight of stairs so they would stumble and fall. With her father, she used a pile of clothes, with the roommate, the corpse of their cat, whom she poisoned.
  • Manly Tears: When Paul starts writing about the kid with the skunk, he starts crying, essentially telling himself, "Yes, I can write!"
  • Mary 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 Münchausen 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.
  • Missing Time: An aspect of Annie which is largely absent from the film. Several times throughout the book, she trails off in the middle of speaking, going silent for seconds or even minutes before continuing like nothing happened. Paul realizes how bad she has this when she tells him she has been a nurse for ten years (having read her scrapbook by this time, Paul knows she has actually been a nurse for upwards of twenty years, meaning she has lost entire years of her life to these stupors). Later when she is about to cut off his foot, Paul sees that she has slipped into one of these "blank states" again, and realizes that she blanks out every time she hurts or murders someone — which, as her scrapbook has already informed him, she does quite a bit. The film only vaguely alludes to this, with Annie mentioning that her thinking is sometimes muddy, and that she couldn't always remember the incidents they asked her about while on the witness stand in Denver.
  • 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. Played with in that he later realizes, with Annie's "help", that his motivations for writing his dream novel ("Awards and Self-Elevation, Dear Boy!") aren't much better.
  • 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.
  • Morality Pet: Misery the pig is the only character in-story that Annie treats with consistent kindness, albeit with the idea to kill and skin her to turn her into a book cover. Fortunately, Misery the pig lives, as does Misery the character.
  • 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. Though he's kept from being a pure Author Avatar by suffering from Schedule Slip, quite different from the famously prolific King.
  • Münchausen Syndrome: Specifically, Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. Not a good trait in a nurse.
  • Murder-Suicide: Towards the end, Annie plans on killing Paul and herself.
  • 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
  • My Significance Sense Is Tingling: Mad she may be, but Annie is quite self-aware and has an uncanny sense of when Paul is lying to her.
  • Newspaper Backstory: Paul realizes just who he's dealing with when he finds a scrapbook filled with clippings showing that Annie had been charged numerous times for infanticide while she was a nurse. Many of them have normal obits which seem out of place – until Paul cottons to the fact that while everyone thought they were natural deaths, Annie knew they were people she'd murdered.
  • Nice Guy: The film takes great pains to establish Paul as one. He's friendly, polite, Nice to the Waiter, and is legitimately kind and grateful to Annie before seeing she's dangerously Ax-Crazy.
  • 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 Historical Figures Were Harmed: Annie's character seems to have been inspired at least in part by Belle Gunness, a Real Life female Serial Killer from the late 1800s who, like Annie, was of formidable physical build, committed arson early on, moved around frequently in her youth to evade the consequences of her murderous lifestyle, and eventually carved out a self-reliant but isolated existence for herself (though Belle's M.O. was killing prospective husbands rather than patients). Similarly, Annie's mysterious ex-husband Ralph and his equally-mysterious escape from her seems to evoke George Anderson, the only man known to have survived a courtship with Belle.
  • Not Quite Dead: Subverted here. The police inform Paul they couldn't find Annie's body... except she only survived long enough to stagger to the close by pigstall and die there.
  • Not the First Victim: When he manages to escape from the bedroom, Paul finds a scrapbook kept by Annie where she reveals that she murdered her father, her college roommate, and multiple babies at the hospital where she worked prior to holding Paul captive and killing a police officer to hide him, and has not been caught.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Paul finding out Annie is reading the latest book and knowing she's not going to like how it ends.
    • 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."
    • Paul finally sets Misery alight just to sap one off of her for once:
      "It's all right here..." *clicks lighter*
    • Paul has an epic one when the police inform him Annie's body isn't where he left it.
    • Just before Annie cuts off Paul's leg with the axe, she confronts him about how many times he had explored her house. When she offhandedly mentions the shot she gave him, even when he's high as a kite, that one word ("Pre-op? Pre-op?!?") cuts through the haze.
  • One-Paragraph Chapter: Exaggerated, as they only contain one word: "Rinse."
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted — Annie had an older brother in her childhood who took her to chapter-plays, and when reading her scrapbook Paul learns he and Annie's brother share the same name.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • When Annie starts swearing, both Paul and the audience know shit's about to go down.
    • In Misery's Return, when Geoffrey finds out that Misery might have been Buried Alive, he drinks brandy straight from the bottle. When Mrs. Ramage finds out, she faints. In both cases, the narration notes that it was the first and last time they have done this.
  • The Paranoiac: Annie thinks everyone is out to get her, from those dirty bird neighbors the Roydmans to an unfailingly polite county official who drives out to her house to inform her that she's had a lien placed on her for failure to pay her taxes. Partly this is her deep-seated mental illness at work, but part of it is actually rooted in reality, as after being publicly tried for the murder of several infants and being acquitted only for lack of hard evidence Annie has become something of an infamous figure in her neck of the woods. And as for Paul...
    Paul: (thinking about the Roydmans Annie insists are out to get her) I don't know about them... but I sure am.
    • Paul even wonders if Annie might have a point about the townsfolk being out to get her after she's served papers for missing a quarterly tax payment. Knowing that many people are several years behind on their taxes and are never threatened, Paul suspects that threatening Annie over a single missed payment might be the town's way of trying to force her off her land.
  • Pet-Peeve Trope: In-Universe - Annie's are Cliffhanger Copout and Cluster F-Bomb. Too bad Paul invokes them both...
  • Pet the Dog: Deconstructed; Annie's more humanizing moments towards Paul and Misery the pig highlight how dangerous she is. These include treating his amputation wounds after he nearly bleeds to death. Paul even notes that he has to go along with those moments or she'll punish him in some way.
  • Police Are Useless:
    • 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 nonetheless taken by surprise and murdered by Annie, though not in vain.
    • Justified and averted in the novel. The first cop who comes out to talk to Annie is young, rather inexperienced, and alone, and was sent out on a shit detail to look for some numbnuts author who most likely wrecked his car in the snowstorm before wandering 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. These cops are not stupid, however. Sensing all is not right, they obtain a search warrant for Annie's house, and successfully break in when Paul kills Annie and calls for help.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain:
    • Annie in the novel, with her usage of the N-word to refer to the character Hezekiah in Paul'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 Womanchild: Annie has a very hard time dividing fiction from reality, reacts violently to any sort of minor inconveniences and takes her favorite writer hostage just to get the book she wants.
  • Pun-Based Title: In a way. The film's tagline was even "This Christmas there will be Misery".
  • Put Them All Out of My Misery: This is the motivation behind the bulk of Annie's murders. At first she limits herself to people who are already close to death, but after her husband leaves her she starts killing babies because "in her deepening psychotic spiral she had begun to see all of them as poor-poor-things".
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Played with. Following Paul's attack on Annie, it's all he can do but keep her pinned to the ground while making her choke on handfuls of burning paper. This makes him briefly think of a rape scene. However, in a twist, Paul embraces the idea when he thinks of all the terrible things she subjected him to, believing it to be proper retribution for everything she'd done.
  • 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 has locked himself inside her bathroom at this point) and crawls to the barn to get her chainsaw... and finally, she dies. Phew. Ironically, the typewriter hitting her head gave her a brain hemorrhage and that's what killed her in the first place.
  • Red Herring: When Annie kills the deputy with the ride-on lawnmower, Paul notes that she forgot to clean his blood off the blades. He eagerly thinks that someone will eventually notice, but it never comes up again.
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: In-Universe, Paul has become jaded by his own character, Misery Chastain. But through writing Misery's Return, he finds himself making her into a more nuanced character.
  • Retcon: In-Universe. Annie isn't happy that Paul killed off Misery and forces him to write a book that brings her back to life. Paul's first try at this is just to make a completely straight-up retcon of the ending of the previous book, but Annie angrily calls him out on this, considering it "cheating".
  • Sacrificial Lamb: In the book, a young cop is sent out to ask area residents if they have information about the missing Paul Sheldon. When Paul sees him he throws the ashtray though the window to try to get his attention, but Annie attacks him with a sharpened wooden cross immediately afterwards, then runs him over with her lawnmower and disposes of the body. Paul already knew Annie had killed before but this shows him that she is definitely playing for keeps.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Sheriff 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.
    • Later on, it's burn the book you've worked really hard on, or have it published and be killed in a murder-suicide.
      • Take a Third Option: Paul does this in the book: Just tell Annie that a stack of blank papers are the novel, and burn them, and after she dies, publish Misery's Return.
  • Sanity Has Advantages: Paul is injured and helpless but he does have one useful advantage over Annie: she allows her love of Misery to cloud her judgment and he can manipulate her by invoking the character's honour, wellbeing, etc. He also is incentivized to make the book longer so as to stall. Annie won't kill him until he finishes Misery's Return, and when he seemingly sets the draft on fire at the end, Annie immediately drops her guard to "rescue" Misery from the flames, which gives him an opening.
  • Saved by the Fans: Misery herself. In-universe. Annie forces Paul to rewrite her death.
  • 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. He stalls for time, drawing out the story. And he's right.
  • Self-Harm: When Annie sinks into a depressive state, she engages in self-harm.
  • 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.
  • Sentimental Sacrifice:
    • Annie forces Paul to destroy his beloved manuscript of Fast Cars because she hates the swearing. It's either that or she kills him.
    • Paul pays her back by burning the book he was writing for her, Misery's Return. However, she manages to save it before he kills her. Played with, though, in that he isn't a big fan of it until it becomes a huge bestseller.
  • Serial Killer: Annie Wilkes murdered her father, college roommate, and more than thirty patients as a nurse, with a total of thirty-nine victims by the time Paul views her scrapbook. 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 transferred 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.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: Annie uses one to shoot Sheriff Buster in the film.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In the novel, Annie tells Paul that her first victim was a magazine artist from New York who'd come out to sketch the nearby ruins of the Overlook Hotel.
    • Annie's "laughing place" references Song of the South.
  • Show Within a Show: Rather, Book Within a Book. Misery's Return, of course. The reader gets to see bits of it, particularly passages that mirror Paul's situation.
  • Shown Their Work: The book allows the reader to get inside Paul's head as he writes and takes Misery's Return seriously, and the thought process he uses to construct a story.
  • The Shut-In: Except to purchase food (and the next copy of Misery's romantic escapades, of course), Annie rarely if ever leaves her secluded cabin.
  • Significant Birth Date: Annie was born on April 1 (April Fools' Day), 1943.
  • Slipping a Mickey: Paul tries it, but Annie accidentally knocks the glass over.
  • Snowed-In: Annie insists they can't leave her cabin due to the terrible weather inside and all the roads being covered in deep snow. This works initially, since Paul crashed during a snowstorm and the weather really is awful, but eventually the claim becomes a blatant lie as he figures he's been kidnapped.
  • The Sociopath: Annie in spades. She lies, cheats, misleads, kidnaps, tortures, and murders just to get another part of her favorite book series made, while showing no signs of regret or even considering any of her actions as bad things.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: A great example in the film: Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" (performed by Liberace) plays while Annie breaks Paul's feet.
  • Spotting the Thread: The direction her ceramic penguin is facing tips Annie off that Paul has left his room.
    • In the novel, she tapes strands of her hair across doorways, drawers, and books, and figures out that Paul left the room when she finds them broken, making it an almost literal example.
  • 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.
    • Those patients? Annie thought she was putting them out of their MISERY.
    • Considering the psychosis (i.e. the actual cause of the deaths) and her possessive desire of the title character, she was putting them out of HER MISERY.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: Paul very heavily downplays this: after seeing her moments of genuine sympathy, he does lament that Annie didn't come out well...but he makes it clear none of her moments of kindness make up for the hell Annie's put him through.
  • Straw Nihilist: Annie. In the book, Paul realizes that she views other people as "dirty bird" or "poor things" that are better off dead. In the film, a scene shows her depressed because she sees life without Paul meaningless.
  • Stupid Evil: Averted where it counts. She might be awkward, manic, and shithouse rat insane, but Annie is deceptively cunning, ruthless, and able to stretch her Mask of Sanity to hide the real madness beneath. Zigzagged when she chops off Paul's foot and thumb as punishment. He nearly dies from the blood loss in the first case, and has a harder time writing in the second.
  • 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 se, but it's quite distinguishable from King's usual style.
  • Surprisingly Improved Sequel: In-Universe. Misery's Return is a brutal chore for Paul, who has to write in under the watchful eye of a lunatic. But over time, he finds it to be the best book he's ever written.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Invoked by Paul when she demands to know why Misery died. He points out that in the 1800s, there was less medical expertise to save women from childbirth and it was quite common.
    • The police end up pegging Annie as someone who knows about Paul's disappearance when a deputy goes missing after he visits her house. They seem to find nothing wrong, and Paul doesn't dare call for help after what Annie did to the deputy, but they are not stupid. The two get a search warrant for her house and more manpower before returning, just as Paul has killed Annie. In the movie this is the reason why Annie plans to kill Paul after she murders the sheriff: it will only be a matter of time before the police find her.
    • While technically Annie did get away with the murders, she's still effectively a pariah simply by association.
  • Sweet Tooth: Annie loves ice cream, cookies, and soda.
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: In the Misery books, best friends Ian Carmichael and Geoffrey Alliburton are both in love with Misery Chastain. She eventually marries Ian, but when she finds out that he can't have children, she secretly sleeps with Geoffrey. This is portrayed positively: "far from having a clandestine affair behind the back of the man they both loved, [they] were giving him the greatest gift they could — a child he would believe to be his own".
  • Sympathy for the Devil: In her brightest moments, Annie can be a charming if slightly childish and old-fashioned hostess, which makes Paul wonder what Annie would've been like if all the chemicals would've formed right in her brain.
  • Take That!: To crazy fans, invokedFan Dumb, Fix Fic writers, 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. Paul eventually realizes Misery wasn't a bad character: he just never put much work into making her shine.
  • Tap on the Head: Subverted. Paul gives Annie a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown that starts with him whacking her on the head with a typewriter. This ends up killing her, though she holds out for a long time.
  • Taught by Experience: Paul finds himself forced to burn Fast Cars by Annie, who gloats that she knows he never keeps backups. In the climax, he safely stashes away the only copy of Misery's Return while burning the title page and a bunch of blank pages. When Annie takes the bait, he starts whacking her with the typewriter and force-feeding her burning paper. Come the end of the story, he's writing on a computer, which does allow for backups.
  • 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.
  • Tech Marches On: Noted by Paul; Annie buys a typewriter for him because for the time period, computers were less common in stores, and they're harder to set up. With the typewriter, you just need paper, ribbons, and any key that falls out. Paul is writing on a computer after he escapes, because it's much more convenient and you can't burn digital documents. Plus, he used said typewriter to murder Annie.
  • There Is 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.
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: In the film, Annie has a much less threatening appearance than in the book, and is portrayed by the relatively unknown (at the time) Kathy Bates, thus giving the impression of being a common woman in her forties. The effect is unsettling.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: In the book, Paul finds out Annie hasn't completed reading the latest edition of Misery. He knows how it ends, and knows Annie won't take it well. He's right.
  • Time-Passes Montage: In one montage, Paul is seen typewriting by the window with different clothes. His injuries are getting better too.
  • Torch the Franchise and Run: In-universe. Paul has grown to hate writing the Misery Chastain novels and kills her off so he can write a gritty crime novel. In both versions, Annie is enraged when she reads the last Misery book, forces Paul to burn his other manuscript, and makes him write a new novel to retcon Misery's demise.
  • Tropes Are Tools: In-Universe, Paul has grown weary of his own book series, seeing it as a shallow romance. But with Annie's (extremely unwanted) advice, Paul manages to make Misery a genuinely deep and fantastic story.
  • Trust Me, I'm an X: In the novel when Annie is about to cut off Paul's foot to punish him, she says: "Don't worry. I'm a trained nurse." She is, but that doesn't make it much better.
  • Twisted Echo Cut: Chapter 6 of part 1 switches between Paul's thoughts and Annie's chattering, paragraph by paragraph.
  • Unbuilt Trope: Both the book and the film were made well before the darker side of the invokedFan Dumb was exposed via the internet.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Annie uses many bizarre and childish words to compensate for profanity. Paul knows he's in deep shit when Annie gets angry and spits out real curse words.
  • Viewers in Mourning: An In-Universe example. Annie is devastated by the death of Misery, and handles it very poorly.
  • Villain Has a Point:
    • Paul concedes that some of Annie's criticism of his writing is actually quite perceptive; he especially finds her points about Deus Ex Machinas and Cliffhanger Copouts being bad to be spot on, and eventually come to agree with her assessment that Fast Cars was pretentious.
    • Paul surmises that he can't fault Annie for just being hurt by Misery's death, reflecting that rousing such a response in a reader is the goal of any author, and remembering feeling grief-stricken by the death of Garp's son Walt in The World According to Garp.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Annie, though pretty unhinged by this point anyway, completely goes off the deep end when Paul burns the novel in revenge. She finally blasts out an undiluted swear in a screaming rage and attacks him. After Paul actually dishes it back hard and good, she's left more or less just screaming and roaring at him like a frustrated animal.
  • Villainous BSoD: Inverted. Being left by her husband Ralph Dugan had this effect on Annie, but instead of having a Heel Realization she just plunged fully into psychosis. Before this she'd restrained herself to just killing the old and sick, but after this she accepted a maternity position and started killing babies.
  • Whatever Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Paul's daughter never appears. He mentions he kept writing the Misery books to pay for her schooling. Goodness knows how she felt when her dad went missing for several months.
    • Misery the Pig is dropped from the story and her fate is never revealed after Annie's death. The most likely idea is that Misery was passed on to Annie's next-of-kin or sent to live at a farm for the remainder of her days.
  • Who's Laughing Now?: After realizing escape is impossible, Paul finally snaps and delivers a rather brutal last laugh to Annie, tricking her into believing that he has burned the only existing manuscript to Misery's Return.
    Annie: Paul, you can't!
    Paul: Why not? I learned it 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.
  • Writing by the Seat of Your Pants: In-Universe example. Paul is forced to write Misery's Return like this, since Annie wants him to start immediately and accepts no excuses. As he notes to himself, he has to concentrate on getting Misery out of her grave as soon as possible; "minor matters such as what the fucking book was supposed to be about would have to wait."
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Annie seems to think she's in a romance novel.
  • Wrote a Good Fake Story: Paul starts writing Misery's Return because Annie forces him to. By the time he finishes it, he feels that it might be the best thing he ever wrote.
  • Yandere: Annie is a very disturbing combination of being Ax-Crazy and a Loony Fan.

Now my tale is told.


Video Example(s):


Misery | Hobbling scene

Annie Wilkes holds novelist Paul Sheldon hostage and forces him to resurrect her favorite character in his book. She even resorts to breaking his ankles to keep him from leaving.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (22 votes)

Example of:

Main / Yandere

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