View Full Version : Who is the protagonist in Misery

10-18-2004, 04:43 AM
There is Annie Wilks and Paul Sheldon. Who do you think is the protagonist? While I believe it is Paul Sheldon, I believe one could argue that Wilks is the protagonist because she is the most dimensional character in the film. I could argue either way and wondered what others thought. Do you think it is a flaw of the story that she is more dimensional than Paul or do you think it was perfect? Could Paul have been written to have more dimensions than Annie? I think the book shows that he is more of a multi-dimensional character than in the movie.

10-18-2004, 04:53 AM
Paul Sheldon. No doubts. Annie is a main character, but she's still the antagonist.

I thought both had plenty of dimension.

10-18-2004, 04:54 AM
I understand Paul to be the protagonist because he has a big problem–a problem named Annie–and it's his struggles that the reader follows. I've read the book but not seen the film. In the book, Annie didn't seem so multidimensional. She was just a crazy lady who was a threat.

10-18-2004, 05:10 AM

Absolutely! I think that's the problem. In the book, Paul is clearly multi-dimensional but I think the movie blurred the lines. Yes, I agree that Paul is the protagonist, I just think Annie was given more dimensions and perhaps made it more questionable who and what the story was about. Annie was a big problem. :eek

10-18-2004, 07:07 AM

Annie is the antagonist. It doesn't matter who has more dimensions.

10-18-2004, 10:17 AM
Antagony or protagony is in the eyes of the reader.


10-18-2004, 02:36 PM

I agree. I just think it's a problem when the antagonist has more dimensions than the protagonist. It's like in Blade Runner where the audience empathized with the robot instead of Harrison Ford who was the protagonist because the robot had more dimension.

10-18-2004, 08:30 PM
So would you say Darth Vader or even Han Solo is the protag in Star Wars (the original trilogy), since they're more interesting and multi-dimensional than Luke?

I agree that readers' affinity is subjective. But I also agree with Reph that you must objectively think about who the story really is about. In Misery, the line is somewhat blurred, but I still say it's Paul Sheldon's story.

In Cujo, for example, the dog is the protagonist, even though it plays the role of the villain.

10-18-2004, 08:46 PM
In Cujo, for example, the dog is the protagonist, even though it plays the role of the villain.

This is interesting. Why do you feel the dog is the protag? I would think it's the woman (can't remember her name, sorry).

10-19-2004, 03:56 AM
The dog is the protagonist? Do you think the shark is the protagonist in "Jaws"?

Perhaps you think this as the same way that I'm thinking that Annie could be the protagonist.

BTW, I do agree that it's Paul's story and that he is the protagonist but in the movie I think his character was flat. I wanted to see what others thought.

Concerning Darth Vader, that is a good question and something that I considered. But, I think the issue boils down to flaws in character design of the protagonist. Paul and Luke Skywalker could have easily been less flat if they had more dimension.

A good protagonist is Captain Picard in First Contact. While the antagonist Borg Queen was a strong character, Captain Picard was not a flat protagonist and was questioned about his duty to the ship or to vengeance a la Melville.

Perhaps that's the problem: flat protagonists. That may be why I questioned who the protagonist truly was.

10-19-2004, 05:15 AM
I think Uncle Jim said in the Tome that readers automagically identify with the first character who walks on stage, and with the point-of-view character (may be the same character). This is probably your protagonist.

10-19-2004, 07:58 AM
The woman is the protagonist, too. But Cujo is not just a villain or point of view character. At least in the book, you actually gets to see why and how he gets that way, and that he's turning crazy by rabies and he can't help it... it's not like he's evil incarnate. So from his point of view, he is the protagonist. The story is about him. But I think this is probably a little controversial. I'd be satisified to concede that Cujo is the antigonist and leave it at that.

In Jaws, the shark is not a point of view character, so I wouldn't say he's the protagonist.

10-19-2004, 08:33 AM
In Misery, Annie Wilkes was the antagonist, but it was every bit as much a story about her as Paul. Stephen King gave Annie enough depth to take the reader from hating her outright to some semblance of pitying or caring about her, which resulted in a dual emotional investment by the reader in both protagonist and antagonist. I have to say when I read the book, I felt so sorry for her and terrified for Paul because I had a good idea of just how crazy the poor gal was. Hope this makes sense here.


Writing Again
10-19-2004, 06:58 PM
Part of this is the difference between a movie and a novel.

Novels can and often do, take place more in the head than in the physical world: Movies usually take place in the external, physical, visual world. Novels like "Johnny Got His Gun" are comparatively common: Movies like "Johnny Got His Gun" are extremely rare: Both take place inside Johnny's head: Both are 90% flashback.

This means you can write a novel about a person tied up and locked in a closet and present them as well rounded human beings without even relying on flashbacks. The author can make the person more rounded even though they never move.

In a script the more mobile person has an edge automatically.

The author of a novel is in control of almost everything in the novel including the character: In the movie business the writer loses control of the script quickly and usually completely. The director has the largest overall control of the set, but the actor has the biggest control over the character.

Had James Caan had a lesser actress opposite him Annie Wilkes would have come off a pale ghost of a mad woman compared to the dynamic figure Kathy Bates presented: Had Kathy Bates had a lesser actor, he might as well have been a rag doll.

In a novel the reader can experience the story as it unfolds from within the protag's POV: In a movie the viewer sees and hears the story unfold from without the protag's POV.

10-20-2004, 12:11 AM
I read the book and saw the movie. Hence my opinion that who is antagonist or protagonist is in the eyes of the audience. I've also read King's interviews and bio on what that book and characters meant to him when he created the story and the moive. For me it becomes a more interesting question with this background in forming my answer.

I don't feel it's my place as author to tell my audience who is ant/pro for them. Yeah, I may say how I wrote it, tell them I've a great villian they gotta see/read.

Regardless, who is what may be different for them than it is for me. Depends on which character they most strongly connect to in their reading experience. That increases my potential audience. YMMV.

It's important as author to understand the ant/pro dynamics. A great tool. But in the end, what my audience fills in between the lines on the page is their unique experience. There's the beauty.

Writing Again
10-20-2004, 09:27 AM
Thank you, Gala. I like that.

10-20-2004, 11:58 AM
Protag or antag isn't in the eye of the reader, it's in the role the character plays. The antagonist is the protagonists opposition. In this case, Annie is clearly the opposition character.

And in the older sense of the words, Annie is clearly not a good person, her goals aren't good goals, and her treatment of Paul is clearly antagonistic. Paul is the good guy, Annie is the bad guy, and in the end, Paul wins out. Sort of.

There's no rule that says the antagonist can't be the more interesting character, they frequently are, which is why many actors prefer playing them. There's no rule that says the antagonist can have the bulk of the story. But protag and antag is something far more than something simply in the eye of the reader, is a definition of character roles.

Nor would I believe for a second that Cujo is the protagonist of the novel. Cujo is without question the antagonist.

Writing Again
10-20-2004, 02:23 PM
From Dictionary.com :


Usage Note: The protagonist of a Greek drama was its leading actor; therefore, there could be only one in a play. The question for speakers of modern English is whether a drama can have more than one protagonist. When members of the Usage Panel were asked “How many protagonists are there in Othello?” the great majority answered “One” and offered substitutes such as antagonist, villain, principal, and deuteragonist to describe Desdemona and Iago. Nevertheless, the word has been used in the plural to mean “important actors” or “principal characters” since at least 1671 when John Dryden wrote “Tis charg'd upon me that I make debauch'd persons... my protagonists, or the chief persons of the drama.” Some writers may prefer to confine their use of protagonist to refer to a single actor or chief participant, but it is pointless to insist that the broader use is wrong. ·The use of protagonist to refer to a proponent has become common only in the 20th century and may have been influenced by a misconception that the first syllable of the word represents the prefix pro-, “favoring.” In sentences such as He was an early protagonist of nuclear power, this use is likely to strike many readers as an error and can usually be replaced by advocate or proponent.


One who opposes and contends against another; an adversary. The principal character in opposition to the protagonist or hero of a narrative or drama.