Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Drama)
There are two central themes in The Miracle Worker: that the human spirit can triumph over even the most daunting of disabilities and that a dedicated teacher can transform the lives of those with whom he or she comes into contact. These inspirational themes have long been personified in the widely known true-life relationship between Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan, but The Miracle Worker also dramatizes collateral issues that extend beyond the particular case. Underlying Helen’s process of learning basic principles of what Annie terms “obedience” (decorum, etiquette, and hygiene), there are more universal lessons of self-governance—the inculcation of self-restraint instead of willfulness, the development of self-discipline instead of self-indulgence. Only when these lessons have been mastered can Helen begin to acquire language—which, Annie says, “is to the mind more than light is to the eye.”
The play’s recurrent images of keys and locks are related to the learning process, which metaphorically opens the world to Helen’s innately active and inquisitive mind. Significantly, Helen’s first activity when alone with Annie is to unlock the teacher’s suitcase, finding there an unsuspected treasure, the gift of the doll. Nevertheless, possession of keys—and of the treasure that they can disclose—is not easily come by and often becomes an object of contention, like the doll itself. Those not in possession of the keys...
(The entire section is 494 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of The Miracle Worker Themes. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!