The Miracle Worker by William Gibson

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Compare and contrast Mr. and Mrs Keller's view on getting help for Helen in The Miracle Worker.

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The beginning of the play contains a lot of clues to how Mr. and Mrs. Keller differ in regards to their feelings about getting help for Helen. There is a large exchange early in the play that provides all of this information for us. Quite simply, Kate wants to improve her daughter's life while the Captain simply wants peace in the house.

Kate loves her daughter and would do anything for her. "As long as there's the least chance.  For her to see.  Or hear, or--" The problem is that Kate has spoiled Helen out of sheer pity.  Allowing an undisciplined child like Helen to cradle a pair of scissors?  Come ON!  Still, Kate is in a state of desperation, willing to hire anyone who can provide any semblance of help.

It's Captain Keller who tries to be a bit more realistic (along with a tidbit of selfishness).  The family has contacted any number of doctors already.  He considers it an "affliction" to have to look at someone so untidy and undisciplined.  This exchange begins with Keller's refusal to write and ends with his acquiescence.  Here is a short list of quotes that well-define the Captain's position.

  • "Kate, some way of teaching her an iota of discipline has to be--"
  • "It's not safe to let her run around loose."
  • "It hurts me to look at the girl."
  • "I've done as much as I can bear, I can't give my whole life to it!"
  • "Katie.  How many times will you let them break your heart."
  • "I've stopped believing in wonders."
  • "I want some peace in the house, I don't care how, but one way we won't have it is by rushing up and down the country every time someone hears of a new quack."

Perhaps it would be appropriate to end with the Captain "giving up," and finally offering to write Dr. Chisholm in Baltimore.  Here is the exclamation from Kate that does it:

Are you willing to put her away? ... She wants to talk, like--be like you and me.... Every day she slips further away.  And I don't know how to call her back.

Thank God for Annie Sullivan!

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