Lauri Berkenkamp's "Reading, Writing, and Interpreting: Stephen King's Misery"

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“Thus, for these critics, the reader and the writers are involved in a reciprocal participatory relationship, where the reader’s contribution to the text is as important to its meaning as are the literal words on the page” (203).

                Berkenkamp’s article helped me to look at Misery in an entire different light.  The first time I read misery, I was astonished at the relationship that built between Annie Wilkes and Paul Sheldon; I knew that they had a warped, twisted dependence on each other, but it never crossed my mind that it could be analyzed as a literary one.  I got the vibe that their bond was strictly a survival tactic: Paul needed Annie because he was badly injured and dependent on Novril, and Annie needed Paul because he was the person that breathed life into her through the character portrayal of Misery.  But thanks to Berkenkamp, I can look at the two characters in a whole different light.

                  At one point in the article, Berkenkamp states “Through the course of Misery the power dynamics shift each time a change occurs in one character’s level of insight, so that finally both Annie and Paul become creators as well as interpreters of each other as texts” (204).  When I read this, I had several different scenarios going through my mind from the story, and I couldn’t help but to realize how true this statement really was.  Paul learns (from painful experience) how to read Annie’s moods, body language, and facial expressions from the time that he was spent with her, and thus can begin to predict what type of mood she is in on that particular day.  This helps him to track her and plan out her next move. In Paul’s head, he is constantly alluding to a story line, where he is both the creator and the reader.  A good example of this would be when he rolled into the bathroom and stole a dozen or so capsules of Novril when Annie went to get his paper from the store.  The entire time he was moving, he pretended that there was an announcer giving a play by play of the scene, and as Paul listened to his creation, he gave me an adrenaline rush.    

                Now Annie on the other hand is not quite so different from Paul.  True she lives in her own little world where everyone is after her, but she both depends on and controls Paul Sheldon at the same time.  For instance, she forces him to burn his manuscript and then to write the final Misery novel for her pleasure only.  But while she is holding the math to him, she can’t control Paul and literally make him do anything.  Sure, if he doesn’t comply with her, he will likely die…but nonetheless, that’s an option.  AND, if Paul takes that option, you can be damn well sure that dear Annie won’t be able to live knowing that her role model has died.  To me, the two are acting out a game of cat and mouse.  Each one has something that the other one wants, but neither are able to retrieve it in the beginning (or in some cases...never at all).

1 Comments

mIGUEL said:

Hi! Could you tell me where you find her article? Im from Spain and I don't know how to obtain it. Please answer to my email, Thanks!

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