What are the themes in Misery by Stephen King?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Stephen King's 1987 novel Misery, which is about a crazed fan who kidnaps her favorite author and tortures him into writing a novel, has a number of themes, including the dynamic between fan and celebrity and the spiral of addiction.

His protagonist, Paul Sheldon, is being tortured because a fan of his is extremely upset with his storytelling choices and subsequent choice to change genre. Her anger, as well as her entitlement, mirrors the way in which overzealous fans can become aggressive towards a content creator when they feel they are not being given the kind of content that they want or deserve. King paints this feeling as being torturous, forced to write in absolute "misery".

Another lesser-discussed theme in Misery would actually be the abuse of alcohol and pain medication. Paul's troubles begin with an alcohol-inspired decision to drive to Los Angeles rather than returning home. He is then kidnapped by Annie, who gets him addicted to pain killers. As Paul becomes dangerously reliant on this medication, the world around him continues to unravel, and Annie's rage and violence begin to emerge. This creates a parallel to how addiction itself, in particular with pain medication, can seem harmless at first, like Annie, until things begin to spiral darkly. King made a comparison between Annie and addiction in an interview with The Paris Review

Annie was my drug problem, and she was my number-one fan. God, she never wanted to leave.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I sense two critical themes in King's work.  The first would be the exploration of the "crazed fan."  I think that there is a significant message coming out of the book that makes both artist and public their relationship to one another.  The idea that there is a "number one fan" out there like Annie should strike horror in both the public and the artist who never knows what situations might prompt their "number one fan" to have their dreams realized.  In an age of celebrity stalker, still reliving the horror of John Lennon's assassination, and the idea of how the public figure does not enjoy a private life, the book is quite telling in its discussion of the pitfalls of stardom.  Another theme that is evident in the book is the theme of survival.  Paul must utilize any and all mental toughness to withstand what Annie makes him endure.  The idea of consciousness being a struggle to survive is "misery," yet is a part of what it means to be a human being.  The notion of endurance invariably leading to triumph is a theme that we see Paul Sheldon embody throughout the narrative until its conclusion.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial