3 Annie Wilkes

Annie Wilkes

Infobox character
name = Annie Wilkes
series =

caption = Annie Wilkes, portrayed by Kathy Bates.
first = Misery (novel)
last = Misery (film)
cause =
creator = Stephen King
portrayer = Kathy Bates
episode =
nickname = Dragon Lady
alias =
species =
gender = Female
age = 44
born = 1943
Bakersfield, California
death = 1987
specialty =
occupation = Nurse (by training), farmer
title =
callsign =
family =
spouse = Ralph Dugan (1979-80)
children =
relatives =
residence =
religion =
nationality =

Anne Marie Wilkes Dugan, usually known as Annie Wilkes, is a fictional character and the antagonist in the 1987 novel "Misery", by Stephen King. In the 1990 film adaptation of the novel, Annie Wilkes was portrayed by Kathy Bates, who won the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal. The American Film Institute included Annie Wilkes (as played by Bates) in their "100 Heroes and Villains" list, ranking her as the 17th most iconic villain (and the seventh-most iconic villainess) in film history.

In the novel

Wilkes was born in Bakersfield, California and graduated from the University of Southern California nursing school in 1966. After several years of working in hospitals across the country, she settled in a remote portion of Colorado's Western Slope.

Wilkes saves the protagonist, Paul Sheldon, when he is crippled in a car accident and takes him to her home to convalesce. She fawns over Sheldon, a writer of romance novels starring her favorite literary character, Misery Chastain; she professes to be his "number one fan", and even says she loves him. This, and the fact that she does not seem in a hurry to take him to a hospital, makes Sheldon uneasy. Sheldon has studied psychological disorders as part of his research for the series, and suspects early on that Wilkes is mentally unstable.

Wilkes is enraged when she discovers Sheldon killed off Misery at the end of the latest "Misery" novel. She holds him captive in her home and subjects him to a series of physical and psychological tortures, including forcing him to burn the only copy of a novel he felt would put him back on track as a writer. She also forces him to write a new novel bringing Misery back to life. In one of the film's most infamous scenes, she breaks his ankles with a sledgehammer to stop him from escaping. In the book she chops off his foot with an axe and cauterizes it with a blowtorch, and later cuts off one of his thumbs when he complains about a missing letter on his typewriter.

Sheldon finds Wilkes' old scrapbook and learns the disturbing details of her life. She was married to Frank Dugan, a physical therapist, but he left her a year later, citing "mental cruelty." While serving as head maternity nurse at a Boulder, Colorado hospital, several infants in her care died under mysterious circumstances. She was tried for their deaths, but acquitted for lack of evidence. However, the press — which called her "the Dragon Lady" — strongly implied that she was in fact guilty. Sheldon also learns that she killed several patients at other hospitals where she worked, but no one noticed because they were either very sick or suffered debilitating injuries beforehand. She also killed her childhood neighbors and their father, her own father, her college roommate and a hitchhiker she once slept with — all told, almost 40 people.

Believing that he is Wilkes' next murder victim, Sheldon writes the new novel as she wants. Wilkes then says they should "celebrate" the new novel in a murder-suicide. Sheldon pretends to go along with it, but then sets the manuscript ablaze. While Wilkes tries to put the fire out, Sheldon overpowers her by throwing his typewriter into her back and choking her with the pages of his book. In the film, he chokes her with pages of the burnt novel. In the novel, he chokes her with blank pages which she believes to be the book; in reality, the real novel was hidden from sight and was later published.

She ultimately dies of a fractured skull; Sheldon is then rescued by police. In the book, she fractures her skull when she slips and falls on the mantle of the guest room bed. When the police go in to search the bedroom where Wilkes is believed to have died, they find it empty. It is later revealed that, despite being mortally wounded, she managed to escape the bedroom and died in her barn with her hands on a chainsaw, which she presumably intended to use on Sheldon. In the movie, Sheldon kills her by ramming a metal statue of her pet sow pig, named Misery after his stories into her face.


Annie Wilkes is a cunning, brutal and dangerously disturbed woman who hides her psychosis behind a cheery facade. In the novel, she frequently maims herself during her bouts with depression. She has an unhealthy obsession with romance novels, particularly Sheldon's "Misery" series. She often has difficulty in differentiating between these novels and reality. She is also intensely (almost fanatically) religious.

She abhors profanity, to the point that she will fly into fits of rage if it is used in front of her. She instead expresses anger with childishly strange words and phrases like "cockadoodie," "dirty bird," "dirty birdie," "oogie," and "rooty-patooties." In the novel, however, she lets more conventional profanities slip on occasion. Also, in both the novel and the film, she calls Sheldon a "lying cocksucker" after he burns the manuscript to "Misery's Return".

Incurably paranoid and depressed, she thinks everyone is persecuting her and frequently has unexpectedly violent tantrums over insignificant matters. For instance, when Paul complains that the paper she originally bought him is smudge-prone, she hits his still-healing knee (with her bare hands in the novel and with the packet of paper in the movie).

The novel hints that she may suffer from bipolar disorder and/or a particularly severe case of paranoid schizophrenia. In a special feature on the collectors' edition DVD, forensic psychologist Reid Meloy said that Wilkes' personality is a virtual catalog of psychological disorders. According to Meloy, Wilkes suffers from bipolar disorder, a severe personality disorder and (owing to her apparent pleasure at seeing people harmed or killed) sadomasochism. He also believes her profile is typical of people who stalk celebrities.

In his commentary on the film available on the DVD, director Rob Reiner notes that Wilkes' killing spree is loosely based on that of Genene Jones, a nurse who is believed to have killed as many as 50 children who were in her care over a two-year period.

Other appearances

Annie Wilkes is mentioned in Kim Newman's novella, "The Other Side of Midnight". Set in his alternate history, crossover Anno Dracula series, it is mentioned that she was the murderer of John Lennon, telling the press that she loved him but that he had to die for splitting up the Beatles.


*imdb title | id=0100157 | title=Misery
* [http://www.afi.com American Film Institute]

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