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Archetypal Analysis of "misery"

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                                       Archetypal Analysis of Misery

Archetypes have a role in dreams and are seen by Jung as representing certain mythological motifs or mythologems designated by Jung as archetypes. Among the archetypes identified by Jung are those of the hero, the demon, many natural objects (trees, sun, moon), etc. The archetypes given the greatest importance by Jung in terms of their power to shape personality are the persona, the anima and animus, the shadow, and the self. (Hall and Nordby 41-42). In this specific piece, “Misery” various different character, symbols and plots can be deeply understood.

A vast variety of different characters in Misery are consistent with literary archetypes. Annie Wilkes is presented as an obsessive personality in the way she keeps her home, in the way she becomes dedicated so thoroughly to the writer she holds hostage and his works, Paul. She has a variety of knick-knacks everywhere, and each must be in its proper place. She wants every element in life to be in its proper place, and she becomes crazy when it is not so.

The persona she presents to the world is very different from the person behind the persona, and for Annie Wilkes, the shadow dominates. Throughout her life, Annie evidently had no trouble fooling society into believing that she was caring, nurturing, healing, and all capable of being a nurse. Her murders along the way were left undiscovered because she gave herself a false identity, and the people around her were convinced enough to trust her. She projects an image of the earth-mother archetype, when she wishes, and this fits with the job of a nurse.

 The demon is hostile to people and tend to inspire dead and embody evil. Annie Wilkes is the archetypal monster, and her character is filmed to reflect that. Annie’s face is often filmed in an upward diagonal angle, and closes up her face are usually accompanied by shadows, such as the scene in which she scolding Paul for his cursing, when half of her face disappears into the dark shadows that fill in the bedroom. Annie’s character is presented in such a way that the audience immediately knows to fear her.

In Misery, Annie Wilkes indeed shows evidence that she fails at social adaptation (indicated by her inability to succeed as nurse, her isolation in this house, her reaction to outsiders to any intruders) and by concerns about representation (she seeks to justify her own life through the character in the books, achieving a self-esteem in this secondary fashion she could never achieve in her life, as shown when asked to help name the next book). She shows the symptoms of depression and a sense of emptiness and appears to fight back at the world as being responsible for her feelings of loneliness. She has substituted a magical and illusionary world for a real world, and the world of Misery Chastain becomes a substitute life for her. Misery Chastain is for her an archetype that is all-powerful. When the life of that archetype is threatened by the man who created it in the first place, she tries to force him to set that world right and to write a new novel that will give her back the world she needs to survive.

Paul is the archetypal hero, on a quest to escape from Annie’s grasp and restore his passion for writing. The hero “may search for... knowledge for himself”, (Class notes) just as Paul searches for knowledge and strength as a writer. Paul cannot defeat Annie by himself; he needs the help of the talisman, which is his writing. Paul learns that as long as he can keep Annie interested in the evolving narrative, she will keep him alive. His writing is the only part of himself that can keep him alive. The hero often “struggles for something valuable and important” and “goes through a rite of passage or imitation”(“Archetypes, 6”), and the writer in Paul grows and evolves, surviving the madness of Annie Wilkes. Although his quest is over when he kills Annie and finishes the new Misery novel, Paul, like many archetypal heroes, is permanently changed by his traumatizing time with Annie; “once the questing hero has faced his or her trials successfully, they return to their people, usually transformed by their experience” (Wood, 3). At the end of the movie, when his agent says “I thought you were over it” Paul replies, “I am. Well, maybe not completely... I don’t know if you can ever be totally over something like” (Misery). Paul has completed his quest with the help of his talisman, and he has been fundamentally changed by his encounter with the monster.

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