The Misery of Women: Liminality of Gender Roles in Stephen King’s Misery


  • Hollie Catherine McDonnell Mary Immaculate College


There was no Annie because Annie had not been a goddess at all, only a crazy lady who had hurt Paul for reasons of her own…The hole opened and Paul stared through at what was there, unaware that his fingers were picking up speed…unaware that he was weeping. (King 2017, 416, 420)

The purpose of this paper, which focuses on Stephen King’s Misery, is to contrast the liminal, mental space that Paul inhabits during the writing process to the physical, horror space of Annie’s home that he is entrapped in. Through this contrast of spaces and transitions from idea to script, and patient to captor, the idea of liminality and becoming will be demonstrated. By analysing the role of Annie as both lover of the literary world created by Paul, and the ‘maniac’ that has captured him in her home, the issue of the female presence in liminality, as well as the transformation of the creative process, will be discussed. As liminality is ‘understood as transition and transgression’ it has ‘becomes a valuable tool for the interpretation of literature’ (Bergmann 2017, 479). In this context, it demonstrates not only the emotional and mental transition made by those who suffer trauma and horrific events – such as Paul – but also the movement from submissive to tormented captor in Annie.

            In a feminist understanding, the role of Annie is especially applicable to the concept of liminality and the space of her own home where she continuously transitions between a submissive, avid fan of Paul’s writing, and sadistic tormentor. She eventually does complete the transition into the ‘crazed female’, becoming something Paul fears even after he has killed her. Her matriarchal, female qualities of caring for Paul and adoring his writing become twisted and disturbed as Paul continues to ‘make mistakes’ or upsets her in different ways (Keesey 2002, 54). She transitions from submissive female, performing in the role of caretaker, to the dominating, powerful role of a violent kidnapper. This uncertainty and unpredictable change in Annie is juxtaposed with the creative space that Paul enters as he writes, sometimes producing excellent work but also producing writing that Annie disapproves of. She becomes not only the one who controls his medication and survival, but also his writings and creative environment.

            In conclusion, the theory of liminality and of transformative spaces and marginal characters - the writer and world creator that is Paul and the anti-social madness of Annie – are contrasted here between the two characters and their roles of power within the text.