Annie Wilkes Meets Ruth: A Frightening Duo

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Annie Wilkes, from Stephen King’s Misery, and Ruth, from Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door, are both without a doubt psychotic antagonists with the upper hand in their situations.  Both women exerted strength with and over their captives, when in reality, they were weak and feeble minded women with pasts that included emotional abuse and abandonment by their loved ones. Now one of the first similarities that I found between the two was how both women had a type of routine that they carried out in order to stay as rooted to reality as possible; Annie would tend to her house …keeping up its appearances and reading her books, while Ruth would sit, watch TV and drink coke and smoke herself into a coma. But if anything disrupted this order, it was almost impossible for Annie or Ruth to handle it.  Sure, Annie would scream and Ruth would torture Meg, but while each went about their hysterics in different ways, they equally hobbled their captives (by either amputating a body part, or tying them up in the basement).  Control was definitely an essential factor in how both of these women lived their lives, and when a situation arose when the ball might not be in their court….as we know, they had only one way to deal with it.  I also liked the fact that both women were unpredictable in their actions.  I personally never saw what was coming next with Ruth and the kids, and everything that they did to Meg put me in a constant state of unease.  Now while Annie evoked the unpredictable, I thought that it became repetitive at some points and that you could almost see what was coming at times with how the small things set her off into one of her rants.  But even with that said, I’ll admit that Annie got to me when she stuck the needle in Paul for the first time, and starting playing doctor.

Despite the above comparisons, Annie and Ruth did have their differences. When we are first introduced to her, she comes across as a concerned, kind, cheerful individual whose sole purpose is helping Paul to get better.  But as we horror buffs know…first impressions aren’t always what they are cracked up to be.  Annie was clearly a loner, and by reading her trip down memory lane, we can see that companions weren’t always welcomed in her company.  If anyone got in her way, she simply did away with them.  Take her roommate for example; she was Annie’s competition for nursing school so one day she just happened to have an unfortunate accident.  The same thing coincidentally happened with her father.  You see, unlike Ruth, death appealed to Annie, and she took great pleasure in playing God.  She decided who was going to die and when it was going to happen.  But unlike Ruth, Annie didn’t believe in torturing her victims, but rather did the deed nice and quick.  Despite everything that Paul went through, with his two amputations, burning his book, etc., I’m not sure Annie would even think that she slightly tormented him because she believed that what she was doing was ultimately helping him.  By ridding the world of his filth (Fast Cars) Paul Sheldon could be reborn through Misery’s Return, thanks to her.

Now Ruth on the other hand, appears vile and harsh right from the start. She curses, isn’t concerned about appearances (doesn’t wear a bra), and drinks constantly; Annie would be appalled by her since her actions were more proper and confined. Ruth also appears to us with this hardened outer shell, yet ironically takes great pride in being surrounded by people.   In fact, she even brings over other kids from the neighborhood to keep her company.  One thing that I found particularly intriguing about the two characters was that we immediately get the impression that Annie has killed before; with Ruth we don’t get that.  We’re skeptical.  After we read a little bit and she how both she and the kids enjoy their heinous acts, it does seem like she has, but we’re never sure (a great decision by Ketchum in my opinion). Like Annie, Ruth thinks that she is helping Meg by submitting her to all of this torture to ride her of her impurity and save her from her whorish tendencies.  But Ruth goes way beyond anything that Annie could even dream of in my opinion.  Frankly, I’m not sure which one I think is worse.


Mike Arnzen said:

Hard to resolve these characters into "better" or "worse" -- they're both bad! :-) Good contemplation about their differences. You mostly talk about Annie Wilkes; more could be said about Ruth -- especially her psychology - but you describe her character's behavior well.

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