6 min read ⌚
It’s not that easy being a famous author.
Most fans are great, you know, but the crazed ones – not so much.
Also, the only Oscar-winning adaptation of a Stephen King novel.
Who Should Read “Misery”? And Why?
Whether you like horror novels or horror movies, Stephen King is certainly one of the first names your pantheon of idols was adorned with.
If that hasn’t happened still – then, what are you waiting for?
We’re talking about “The King of Horror” here!
“Misery” is the first of King’s fifteen (!) works decorated with a Bram Stoker Award and one of the foremost classics from his early – if you ask us, “golden” – period.
So, it’s a good place to start getting familiarized with King as any other!
Stephen King Biography
Stephen King is a tremendously popular American writer, the author of about seventy books mostly in the horror, science fiction, and fantasy genres.
Among them classics such as “The Shining,” “The Stand,” “Cujo,” “It,” “Needful Things,” “The Green Mile,” “Bag of Bones,” and many more – in addition to his critically acclaimed “The Dark Tower” series of books and some widely quoted non-fiction works such as “On Writing.”
Many of King’s books have been adapted for the cinema. Filmed in 1990, “Misery” won Kathy Bates an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role of Annie Wilkes.
King’s books have sold more than 350 million copies, making him one of the best-selling fiction authors in history.
Paul Sheldon is a bestselling novelist, most famous as the author of a series of Victorian romance novels featuring the character of Misery Chastain.
After finishing the manuscript of the unrelated “Fast Cars,” his newest crime novel, at the Hotel Boulderado in Colorado, rather than going home to New York City, Paul has the sudden (alcohol-fueled) urge to drive to Los Angeles.
However, a snowstorm hits, and Sheldon crashes into a snowbank.
Annie Wilkes, a former nurse, rescues Paul from the car wreck and, even though both of Paul’s legs are broken, she takes him to her home instead of to a hospital.
Because, you see, Annie Wilkes is not just anyone.
She is Paul Sheldon’s number one fan.
However, she’s also not that into violence and profanity which means that she doesn’t like the manuscript of “Fast Cars” at all.
Her anger results, first, in Annie spilling Paul’s soup and then blaming the misfortune on his writing. This, in turn, leads to her punishing Paul by making him wash down the stain with soap water and by subsequently withholding his medications.
In a nutshell, Annie is kind of mad.
Metaphorically, she’s also mad about Misery Chastain and is currently in the process of reading “Misery’s Child,” the last book of Paul Sheldon’s Misery series.
And when we say “the last,” we do mean “the last”: attempting to reestablish himself as a more serious, mainstream writer (hence “Fast Cars”), Paul Sheldon has killed Misery off at the end of “Misery’s Child.”
Needless to say, this does not go down well with Annie.
She rages at Paul for doing such a thing to the poor Misery Chastain and leaves him alone in her house without water, food, or painkillers for over two days!
By the time Annie returns, Paul is all but dead.
And she returns with a typewriter and an offer: either he will burn the manuscript of “Fast Cars” and write a new novel bringing Misery back from the dead, or he will have to share his character’s destiny in a much more literal manner.
Fully convinced that Annie is capable of killing him – we don’t blame you, Paul! – Sheldon starts writing.
After a while, using Annie’s absence (from time to time, she is away on some errands), Paul manages to gather the strength to sneak out of his room.
He repeats this on several occasions.
After finding out that the phone is dead, he steals a knife from the kitchen, and, while returning back to his room, happens upon a scrapbook full of newspaper clippings detailing Annie’s life.
And, boy, is it a scary scrapbook!
Paul Sheldon deduces that Annie is, most probably, a serial killer with 39 dead people to her name, including several babies at a Boulder hospital, something for which she had been charged and acquitted.
In terms of Paul’s subsequent destiny, the last magazine clipping is even scarier: Annie Wilkes is listed as a missing person, which means nobody knows where she – and, consequently, he – is.
Paul thinks that he has masked well his excursions from his room, but after a while, Annie reveals to him that she knows all about them.
Too scary to tell.
Which doesn’t mean that you’ll ever forget the bowdlerized movie version of it:
After some time, Paul complains to Annie that his typewriter is missing a letter.
The result of the complaint?
Pauls’ hand ends up missing a thumb, sliced off with an electric knife!
Eventually, a Colorado state trooper arrives at Annie’s house looking for Paul. Annie, of course, denies having ever seen him, but Paul sees this as his chance for escape, so he alerts the trooper by throwing an ashtray through the window of his room.
Bad move for both of them:
Annie stabs the trooper with a wooden cross and comes back to the room with an intention to kill Paul and then commit suicide to avoid persecution.
The only way for Paul to get out of this is by promising Annie that he’ll finish “Misery’s Return” as soon as possible.
After some time, Paul does exactly that.
So, he calls Annie to his room, fully aware that – with the police on her trail and her sought-after novel completed – there’s nothing which should stop her from killing him.
Paul talks Annie into giving him a cigarette, persuading her that lighting one is a ritual he practices after each finished book.
However, having soaked the manuscript of “Misery’s Return” (we soon find out that it’s actually a decoy) in some smuggled charcoal lighter, Paul uses the match to light the novel on fire in front of Annie’s eyes.
As she tries to put out the flames (which spread to her clothing), Paul hits her with the typewriter.
A struggle ensues, during which Annie trips and hits her head on the mantelpiece.
However, she is not dead yet and manages to all but strangle Paul before temporarily collapsing from her injuries, giving Paul just enough time to crawl out of his room and lock the bolt installed by Annie. Fearing that she’s still alive, he heads for the bathroom where he locks himself, swallows some painkillers, and falls asleep against the door.
By the time he awakes, the police have arrived, and Paul soon finds out that Annie somehow lived long enough to escape from his room by crawling through the window.
She died while trying to get a chainsaw from the barn to kill him.
He was mere seconds away from being brutally murdered.
Paul returns to New York and submits “Misery’s Return” to his publisher.
The book turns out to be his greatest bestseller.
His publisher tells him that an even bigger might be a non-fiction book documenting his experience with his “number one fan.”
However, Paul is unable to write that – or any other book.
He suffers from painkiller withdrawal and is often awakened by nightmares featuring Annie.
The writer’s block even causes him to become an alcoholic.
Until one day he happens upon a child pushing a shopping cart; inside it: a cage; inside the cage: a skunk.
For some reason, this stirs something inside Paul Sheldon, and he starts typing a new novel:
The kid heard a sound in the back of the building and although the thought of rats crossed his mind, he turned the corner anyway — it was too early to go home because school didn’t let out for another hour and a half and he had gone truant at lunch.
What he saw crouched back against the wall in a dusty shaft of sunlight was not a rat but a great big black cat with the bushiest tail he had ever seen.
Overwhelmed with conflicting emotions, he starts weeping.
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“Misery PDF Quotes”
A little talent is a nice thing to have if you want to be a writer, but the only real requirement is the ability to remember the story of every scar. Art consists of the persistence of memory. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
“Misery” is a “dazzlingly well-written” page-turner, a horror classic of the highest order, both suspenseful and “nerve-jangling” in addition to entertaining and poignant.
One of King’s best.
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