Misery by Stephen King

This week we read Misery by Stephen King. I usually am not a huge fan of his stories because they seem to take too long building everything to get to the action. With that being said Misery starts differently. King quickly introduced to the characters and the tension starts at the beginning of the story. Which is something I like in a novel.

We meet Paul Sheldon and Annie Wilkes. At first, it seems that Paul has been saved, but the descriptions used are crucial to queuing the reader that this may not be the case. Now, I am not usually a fan of long descriptions especially ones that are the length of a paragraph and only one sentence. I love having descriptions blended into the story. But with that, I think these long description actually work.

Our first introduction to Annie is a prime example. Paul talks about how there is a mouth over his, and it is a woman’s mouth but here is where it gets a little eerie, “…a woman’s mouth in spite of its hard spitless lips, and the wind from this woman’s mouth blew into his own mouth and down his throat…” (King 5). So we get this image of something not pleasant. Most people associate a woman’s lips being soft and gentle. Here we get the opposite. They are dry and hard, and the air is being forced inside of Paul almost telling us it’s against his will. The description goes on to add to this uncomfortable feeling with his description of her breath “… when the lips were pulled back he smelled his warder for the first time, smelled her on the outrush of fresh breath she had forced into him the way a man might force part of himself into an unwilling woman, a dreadful mixed stench of vanilla cookies and chocolate ice cream and chicken gravy, and peanut butter fudge,” (5).

First people normally associate things like vanilla cookies and chocolate ice cream with things that are sweet and nice, but King took these familiar ideas and made them something that could churn a person’s stomach with the addition of chicken gravy when I read that my stomach did flips. My first thought was how gross to eat all those things so close together that they still lingered in a person’s mouth. My second thought was how disgusting that would be to taste that from someone else’s mouth. I don’t think I would be able to keep down what little was left in my stomach if that was the case. So King did a great job twisting these comforting things into something else.

I have to admit that this next part was a great way to describe Paul’s disgust as Annie forces, even more, of the air from her inside him. King explains the next breath of air as Annie’s limps clamping down and it, “blew down it like the dank suck of wind which follows a fast subway train, pulling sheets of newspaper and candy-wrappers after it…and he thought For Christ’s sakes don’t let any of it out through your nose, but he couldn’t help it and oh that stink, that stink that fucking STINK,” (5). What a way to describe someone trying to save another’s life. Most images of subways are dark, damp, and dirty. The Paul is like don’t let it out, but he can’t help it. If he doesn’t take a breath, she will keep forcing her stink down inside him and infecting him.

Overall, the descriptions in Misery are what I think drove this story forward. They immediate leave a bad taste in the reader’s mouth towards Annie. She because something that we want to run away from but yet we can’t because just like Paul we are made immobile by the pull of the words until the story is done.

4 thoughts on “Misery by Stephen King

  1. You’re right, the description of Annie’s lips and breath are really vivid. There is a lot of description of food in this book, from the caviar to the chicken gravy to the sweet stuff like cookies and ice cream. The fact that our introduction to Annie is the description of him forcing him back to life against his will sets the tone for and foreshadows the rest of the book.

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  2. I loved King’s descriptions of how Annie’s sugary mouth smelled and tasted like rot because it perfectly characterized her. She is someone who is seemingly sweet, but once you get a little closer, you realize that she’s rotted.

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  3. I agree that King’s descriptions in this novel were great. Usually, they ramble but it was nicely done in Misery. I liked and hated the scene where he describes Annie’s mouth over his. People with bad breath always seem to breathe in my face. I can’t imagine a situation like that happening to me.

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  4. I loved King’s descriptions of Annie Wilkes in Misery. He totally turns her femininity on its head and things that should be soft and seductive are instead suffocating and awful. I kept thinking of the Woman of Willendorf–the ancient fertility statue–during these moments. She should be round and nurturing but instead she’s something full of a strange and somewhat disturbing power (probably because it’s foreign to us to see women through this kind of lens). And the food! Totally disturbing.

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