Annie Wilkes. I find her to be one of the most interesting characters that I have ever read. I've read Misery many times and seen the movie quite a few times as well, and there is still never a boring moment with Annie. She is dynamic. It was different this time around reading this novel, because I had never really taken the time to examine just what it was that I was reading. I found myself looking at the story in a whole new light and rediscovering the characters in a way that I hadn't before.
Paul, for instance, though I wanted him to succeed in the end and come out of it as intact as he possibly could, there was a part of me that didn't like him, at first anyway. He irritated me with his prejudgments of Annie. Those times when he thought of her as a stupid woman, who was just another fan of his Misery books. I think it does go back to what Lauri Berkenkamp says in her essay about the reader/writer relationship. As a voracious reader, myself, I understand Annie's addiction to Misery. There is a relationship that develops between the reader and the book he is reading, especially if he finds a connection with the characters. I've stayed up all night, or well into the night, because I had to know what happens next, in many books that I've read. Granted Annie takes this obsession a bit farther than the "normal" person would, but the idea is still there. Paul at first underestimates the readers involvement in the story. He soon learns the truth when Annie begins to critique his work. His epiphany hits him the hardest in his first attempt to write the new Misery novel and Annie calls him on the "cheat" (106). At first he gets annoyed and feels that "Constant reader had just become Merciless Editor" (106). But it isn't long before he realizes just how intuitive the Constant Reader is about reality in fiction, "she saw the story's creative course as something outside of her hands, inspite of her obvious control over him...she really was the Constant Reader, but Constant Reader did not mean Constant Sap" (107).
Once Paul comes to realize the relationship that is growing between them, and there is definitely a relationship, though a terrifying and scary one, his writing becomes the best it has been. Misery, even becomes a joy to him, an escape from the dangerous reality around him. In the end, he even publishes the new Misery, something he would not have even contemplated when he first began writing it.
Annie on the other hand, though psychotic and frightening, I found sympathy for. Did I wnat Paul to kill her in the end? Sure, I did, but there was still something about Annie that I found empathy for. We only really discover the atrocities that she has done, we never fnd out if something happened to her to create the monster inside her, or if she was always a monster. There is an innocence to Annie, that King captured almost too well. For one thing, she is completely convinced that she has done nothing wrong. And her paranioa, is a bit justified. Even Paul feels a shadow of sympathy for her when the news crew, local police and teenagers come knocking. It does't last long, but he feels it.
Annie is a terrifying villian, but what makes her terrifying is our ability to understand her. There is a certain amount of humanity in Annie that makes her real and King weaves this humanity around the instability of her mind and her justifications for her actions. After she kills the young cop, she tells Paul, "I didn't kill him you know. You killed him" (266). I don't think she is trying to convince herself or that she is trying to make Paul feel guilty, I think in Annie's world Paul is the one who killed that young cop. Her reasonings don't make sense to a sane and rational world, but to Annie there is only her reality.
This has always been one of my favorite Stephen King books and reading it, once again, has only deepened that feeling. Annie and Paul make a great couple. They feed off of each others emotions and fears and in the process Paul learns a great deal about himself. Annie, of course, learns nothing, except that in the end she underestimated Paul's desire for freedom and his hatred for her.