Follow TV Tropes

Following

Literature / Misery

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/misery.jpg
"I'm your number one fan..."

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

Misery is a 1987 novel by Stephen King.

Novelist Paul Sheldon crashes his car in a Colorado snowstorm while driving west to celebrate finishing 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. 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 manner of deranged (and sometimes horrific) ministrations.

Advertisement:

Rob Reiner directed a film adaptation in 1990, starring James Caan as Paul and then-unknown stage actress Kathy Bates as Annie, with Lauren Bacall in a minor role as Paul's editor. Bates won an Oscar for Best Actress for her acclaimed performance as Annie, making her the first (and to date the only) person to win an Oscar for a performance in an adaptation of a Stephen King novel. Her Oscar is also the only one received for any of Reiner's films as a director.

In 2015, a stage adaptation, written by William Goldman (who also adapted the screenplay for the film version), and starring Bruce Willis as Paul and Laurie Metcalf as Annie, premiered on Broadway, closing in early 2016.


Advertisement:

Tropes included:

  • 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 [Emphasis mine] 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 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.
    • 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 him to be immediately killed, similar to the previous King adaptation The Shining.
  • Adult Fear: Being kidnapped and trapped in a house belonging to an psychotic person who'll hurt you on a whim can happen, and has happened, many times in real-life.
  • Affably Evil/Faux 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.
  • Alone with the Psycho: Buster in the movie, and Paul in a broader sense.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Annie displays traits associated with an array of mental illnesses (at the very least, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a severe personality disorder with paranoid, antisocial 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
    • So vivid!
    • "Now I must rinse..."
    • "Now My Tale is Told"
  • April Fools' Day: 1943 April Fools' Day is Annie's birthday.
  • Ascended Fangirl: What Annie Wilkes thinks she is...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 also 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 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. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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, which was thankfully toned down to three simple fractures in the film.
  • 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 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).
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Child Hater: Annie doesn't believe infants have souls; why shouldn't she kill them?
  • 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!"
  • 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.
    • 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 following 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."
  • Cruella to Animals: Annie once poisoned a cat, and used the body to murder a roommate.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Dedication: Paul dedicates the manuscript of Misery's Return to Annie.
  • Despair Speech: Only in the film. After a period of relative stabilty, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After being kidnapped, tortured and maimed, Paul eventually fights his way for 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. 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • Good Is Not Dumb: Buster, the amiable local sheriff who figures the puzzle out. He only appears in the movie.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Annie 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".
  • Groin Attack: See the There Is 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. As Paul puts it:
      Paul: Writing may be masturbatory, but God forbid it should be an act of autocannibalism.
  • I'm Your Biggest Fan: One of the most well-known examples in fiction.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: In the book, Paul hurls an old and very heavy typewriter at Annie in their final confrontation, and fortunately for him it hits her squarely in the head.
  • 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 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 nowaday 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 published, although in the written version, he just set fire to some paper with the cover on it.
  • 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 Evil: Not that Annie wasn't evil to begin with, mind you.
  • Love Makes You Dumb: To an extent; Annie's love of the Misery novels can cloud her judgement.
  • Mad Doctor: Annie, killer nurse.
  • 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 in 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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 realises, 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.
  • 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.
  • Munchausen 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
  • 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.
  • 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 briefly survived to stagger close by and die there.
  • 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."
    • 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: Taken Up to Eleven, 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.
  • 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.
  • Pet-Peeve Trope: In-Universe - Annie's are Cliffhanger Copout and Cluster F-Bomb.
  • 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 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.
  • 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 inconviniences and takes her favourtie 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.
  • 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.
  • 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: 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.
    • 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 judgement and he can manipulate her by invoking the character's honour, wellbeing, etc. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Slipping a Mickey: Paul tries it, but Annie accidentally knocks the glass over.
  • The Sociopath: Annie in spades. She lies, cheats, misleads, kidnapps and torture just to get another part of her favourite book series, while showing no signs of regret or even considering any of her actions as bad things.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: A great example in the film: "Moonlight Sonata" starts to play as 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.
    • Also, those patients? She thought she was putting them out of their MISERY.
      • Which, considering the psychosis (ie the actual cause of the deaths) and her possessive desire of the title character, means she was putting them out of HER MISERY.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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, Fan 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Too Dumb to Live: On the other hand, going to the home of a suspected murderer/kidnapper all by yourself isn't a very bright idea. He should've at least informed the state police that Anne Wilkes is a suspect in the case. Him being alone makes it easy for Annie to kill him when he finds Paul in the basement.
  • 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.
  • 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 Fan 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.
  • 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 Writing to be spot on, and eventually come to agree with her assessment that Fast Cars was pretentious.
  • 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.
  • Who's Laughing Now?: After realising 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.
  • Woman in White: 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.
  • 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.
  • Yandere: Annie is a very disturbing combination of being Ax-Crazy and a Loony Fan.


Now my tale is told.

Top

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

/

Media sources:

/

Report