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Misery  
Stephen King Misery cover.jpg
First edition cover
Author Stephen King
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Horror novel
Publisher Viking
Publication date June 8, 1987
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 325
ISBN 0670813648
Preceded by The Eyes of the Dragon
Followed by The Tommyknockers

Misery (1987) is a psychological horror novel by Stephen King. The novel was nominated for the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 1988,[1] and was later made into a Hollywood film and an Off-Broadway play.

Contents

Plot summary

Paul Sheldon, the author of a best-selling series of Victorian-era romance novels surrounding the heroine character Misery Chastain, has just finished the manuscript of his new crime novel, Fast Cars, while staying at the Hotel Boulderado in Colorado; since 1974, he has completed the first draft of every one of his novels in the same hotel room. With his latest project finished, he has an alcohol-induced impulse to drive to Los Angeles rather than fly back home to New York City. However, Sheldon finds himself caught in a blinding snowstorm and wrecks his car, falling unconscious.

Paul is rescued from the car wreck by Annie Wilkes, a former nurse who lives nearby. She takes him to her own home rather than a hospital, putting him in a spare bedroom. Using her acquired skills, food and supplies, and painkillers, Annie slowly nurses Paul back to health. She proclaims herself as Paul's "number one fan", being an avid reader of the Misery series. When she reads the Fast Cars manuscript, she argues with Paul on its violent content and coarse language, punishing him by withholding his medication and forcing him to drink soap water.

It is around this time that the latest Misery book hits the shelves. Unaware that this is also the final Misery book, Annie – whose life revolves around the character – buys her reserved copy. Upon reading the book, and learning of the main character's death, she flies into a rage. She leaves Paul alone in the house for over two days, stating that she may do something "unwise" if she stays. During this time, Paul suffers from hunger, thirst, extreme pain and withdrawal from the painkillers. By the time Annie returns, he is close to death. Upon Annie's return, she forces him to burn the Fast Cars manuscript and write a new Misery book, one that will bring her back from the dead.

After biding his time, Paul manages to escape his room while Annie is on an errand, touring the house in search of more painkillers. He comes across a scrapbook full of newspaper clippings from Annie's life, all of which suggest that Annie is a serial killer who murdered her own father, her college roommate, and numerous patients in several states. He also finds a magazine clipping about his status as a missing person. Annie realizes that Paul had been out of his room, punishing him by cutting off his foot and cauterizing it with a blowtorch.

A Colorado state trooper eventually arrives at Annie’s house, searching for Paul. Realizing a chance for escape, Paul alerts the officer by throwing an ashtray through the window. However, Annie runs over the trooper with a riding lawnmower, gruesomely killing him. She temporarily hides Paul in the basement while she departs, meaning to dispose of the trooper's body and his police cruiser. When Annie returns, she and Paul argue about the condition of the typewriter given to him, angering Annie to the point of amputating Paul's thumb.

Paul finally finishes the new Misery book. As a celebration, he asks Annie for a cigarette and a match, which he uses the to light his manuscript on fire. As a stunned Annie attempts to rescue the manuscript, Paul seizes the opportunity to throw the typewriter at her, knocking her down. He then stuffs several handfuls of burning paper down her throat, seemingly killing her. Crippled and exhausted, he crawls to the bathroom and loads himself on more painkillers.

The police soon arrive in search of their missing colleague, and find Paul alone in the house with no sign of Annie. They later find Annie's body in the barn, with one hand wrapped around the handle of a chainsaw. Ironically, it was not Paul or the burning pages that killed Annie, but a skull injury sustained when she hit her head on the mantlepiece, after tripping on Paul's typewriter. In addition, the papers that Paul burned were not the actual manuscript for the Misery book, but rather blank sheets with the book's title on the front page, a ruse that fooled Annie.

Returning home to New York, Paul submits the new Misery novel to his publisher, who tells him that it will become his greatest bestseller. However, the ordeal is far from over for Paul: he suffers nightmares about Annie, and continues his withdrawal from painkillers. He has also become an alcoholic with writer's block. Eventually, after a random encounter with a child in the street, he has the same spark that inspired him to write Fast Cars. He begins typing about this boy and the skunk he had with him in a shopping cart.

In popular culture

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Adaptations

William Goldman adapted the novel into the screenplay for a 1990 American film of the same name, directed by Rob Reiner. James Caan and Kathy Bates star as Paul and Annie, respectively. Lauren Bacall, Richard Farnsworth, and Frances Sternhagen are the only major supporting actors. The film was a critical and commercial success, making $61,276,872 (USA) domestically on a $20,000,000 budget. Kathy Bates won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance.

The novel was also adapted into a moderately successful Off-Broadway play. The play was recently revived to critical acclaim at London's Kings Head Theatre in 2005 starring Michael Praed and Susan Penhaligon. The play also opened in Athens, Greece in 2007 starring Nikos Psarras in an after-midnight theatre with huge success and ran for two years.

Parodies and cultural references

  • An episode of the animated TV series The Critic entitled Miserable parodied the movie. In this case, Jay continues to date his former captor even after he escapes.
  • The song "Misery Loves Company" by the metal band Anthrax from the album State of Euphoria is inspired and based on the novel.
  • In a special Christmas episode of Robot Chicken, the characters from Peanuts enacted the film, with Linus van Pelt, in the role of Paul Sheldon, held captive by a lovestruck Sally Brown, in the role of Annie Wilkes.
  • An episode of the animated TV series Family Guy entitled Three Kings featured parodies of Stephen King's Stand by Me, The Shawshank Redemption, and Misery, with Brian as Paul Sheldon, Joe as the murdered police officer and Stewie as Annie Wilkes.
  • An episode of Good Eats titled "This Spud's For You, Too" is a parody of the film, with Alton Brown in the place of Paul Sheldon as he is trapped with his biggest fan.
  • In an episode of Saturday Night Live, the movie is again parodied. Dana Carvey portraying himself as a comic retiring the Church Lady, and Roseanne Barr in the Annie role.

References

External links


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