How can I empathize with Annie Sullivan from the play The Miracle Worker?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The word empathy inpsychological terms denotes that one mentally enters into the feeling or spirit of another person. Empathy, then, is an appreciative understanding, and in order to have such an understanding, a person usually has had similar experiences to those of person with whom he/she empathizes.

Anne Sullivan is a young woman who has experienced hardship and knows that in order to learn, one must be disciplined. So, when she tries to teach Helen to demonstrate proper manners such as eating off her own plate and using utensils, knowing that Helen will not be able to go out into public if she does not learn to act properly, Anne becomes very frustrated when Mr. and Mrs. Keller later allow Anne to do otherwise. For instance, Anne asks why Helen gets more than one plate and can throw plates on the floor. She tells Mrs. Keller, "If you don't stand up to one tantrum, I'll go and leave her alone."

This counterproductive behavior of the Kellers deters Anne from her purpose, and it discourages her. Thus, a student may empathize with Anne if she or he has had a dog, for instance, that he has worked some time with in order to teach it not to beg at the table as the family eats only to discover that another family member has been throwing scraps under the table to the dog.

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The Miracle Worker

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