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Anne Sullivan ("Annie") is a twenty-year-old teacher who has just finished her own education at The Perkins School for the Blind. After being hired by Captain Arthur Keller to aid in the education of his blind and deaf daughter, Helen Keller, Annie moves in with the family in order to attempt to restore some order and structure to Helen's life. Unfortunately, Helen is not interested in that order or in being told what to do; she prefers to cause mayhem, knocking out one of Annie's teeth and locking her in Helen's room, which forces the family to have to rescue the woman by climbing up a ladder to the bedroom window.
Annie, however, has as much gumption as Helen. When Helen runs around the table and picks food off of other plates in the breakfast room the next morning, Annie proclaims that she will not have pity for this "tyrant":
The whole house turns on her whims, is there anything she wants she doesn't get? I'll tell you what I pity, that the sun won't rise and set for her all her life, and every day you're telling her it will, what good will your pity do her when you're under the strawberries, Captain Keller?
Although the Keller family is outraged by Annie's brash approach, Annie manages to wrangle them out of the room so that she can have one-on-one time to work with Helen. Helen and Annie have a massive, very physical fight within the room. Annie retaliates when Helen tries to hit her, which teaches Helen that there are consequences for her behavior. Helen gropes around the room, knocking over furniture and creating a mess, with Annie repeatedly placing her back in her own chair. Through sheer persistence and a bit of physical force, Annie manages to get Helen to eat off her own plate for the first time—and with a spoon rather than her hands, no less! Helen also learns to fold a napkin at this time. Although these may seem like small gestures, they are huge victories for both Annie and Helen. Through this scene, Annie realizes that Helen's worst handicap is not her deafness or blindness, but rather her family's pity and indulgence, which allows her to get away with poor behavior.
At breakfast Helen had been walking around and taking food off of other people's plates. Annie, after an exchange with the Captain, asks the family to leave so that she can try to teach Helen how to behave.
Annie tries to work with Helen, but Helen is being resistive. What results is a pretty intense physical fight between Annie and Helen (I think this is the scene that my classes always like best!). At the end Annie comes out with Helen, Helen rushes to her mother, but Annie proudly announces that Helen ate from her own plate with a spoon and then folded her napkin.
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