Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In The Touch of Magic: The Story of Helen Keller’s Great Teacher, Anne Sullivan Macy, Lorena A. Hickok emphasizes the biography of her subject over the intertwined story of Helen Keller; her famous pupil does not appear until chapter 7 Hickok generally refers to Anne Sullivan (later Anne Sullivan Macy, after her marriage to John Macy) simply as “Annie.”

The Touch of Magic begins as Sullivan and her sickly brother are being delivered to an almshouse in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, as wards of the state. Their mother was dead, their father had abandoned them, and their relatives did not want them.

Hickok paints a dark and despairing portrait of the two children and their life at Tewksbury; Sullivan, who was nearly blind, is portrayed as stubborn and as having a generally bad disposition. Her brother Jimmie died, and the other inmates tried to convince Sullivan that her destiny was to live out her life in Tewksbury without hope of a better life. Yet when she heard that a school existed where blind children were taught to read, hope was born in her that she might someday go to school. Eventually she did go to the Perkins Institute for the Blind, but life was not easy for her there either. She was the victim of prejudice because of her Irish background, the object of ridicule because of her lack of basic education, and a discipline problem for the teachers.

After graduation from Perkins, Sullivan was hired to teach...

(The entire section is 502 words.)