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In this horror story by Stephen King, Paul's thumb is cut off by his murderous captor, Annie Wilkes, after she has amputated and cauterized his foot. The foot incident took place after she went out to get him some paper--when she returned, she found he had been out of his room, tied him up, and cut off his foot, as she explained to him this tradition from the days of slavery, called "hobbling." After Annie kills a policeman who comes to the house looking for the policeman who had come looking for Paul, she cuts Paul's thumb off. This followed an argument about the condition of the typewriter she has supplied for him to do his writing on.
The scene in which author Stephen King describes the antagonist of his novel Misery, Annie, meticulously cutting off the thumb of the story's protagonist, Paul Sheldon, occurs in Chapter Eighteen. Paul, forced by his sadistic, psychotic fan to rewrite his novel, is continuously frustrated by the broken keyboard on the typewriter Annie had proudly purchased early in the story. Specifically, the key for the letter "n" is broken, although other keys similarly fail over time. In Chapter Eighteen, the tension between Paul and Annie is heightening, with the latter growing increasingly angered by the former's complaints about the missing letter. Annie had been dutifully reading Paul's revised draft of his novel and inserting the letter "n" wherever the broken typewriter had omitted it. In yet another psychotic fit of anger, however, she decides to address the contentious issue of the missing "n" by cutting off Paul's thumb:
"He stayed still while she poured the liquid on his thumb and on the blade of the knife. She switched the knife on and bent over him, concentrating on her work. As the blade hit into the flesh between his thumb and finger she told him - in a voice which suggested that this was going to hurt her more than it was going to hurt him - that she loved him.
"She had cut his thumb off in the morning, and then that night she had hurried into his room, carrying a cake and singing 'Happy Birthday to You'. It wasn't his birthday. There were candles ail over the cake, in no order. There, in the exact center of the cake, like an extra big candle, had been his thumb . . ."
It is in the preceding chapter, Chapter Seventeen, that King describes Paul's ankle being chopped off. Paul surmises that Annie uses the knife that she had previously used to murder Pomeroy, the failed artist with whom Annie imagines having had an affair. As with the author's description of the thumb amputation, King's description of Annie's cutting off of Paul's leg is explicit and disturbing. The leg amputation, however, occurs before the thumb amputation.
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