Illustration of Helen Keller and her teacher, Annie Sullivan

The Miracle Worker

by William Gibson

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How did Helen Keller’s disabilities affect her before her teacher, Anne Sullivan, arrived?

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Helen's disabilities cut her off from the rest of the world. Her parents, though they love her, have no idea how to reach her since she cannot see nor hear. They resign themselves to the idea that she will never be anything more than an animal, so they are okay...

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Helen's disabilities cut her off from the rest of the world. Her parents, though they love her, have no idea how to reach her since she cannot see nor hear. They resign themselves to the idea that she will never be anything more than an animal, so they are okay with her lack of manners and tendency to throw tantrums when she does not get her way.

Helen is also shown to be frustrated, with violence as her one method of communication with the outside world. She wants those connections and is close to her mother, but the only way she feels she can break through to others is through howls and tantrums. These tantrums are potentially lethal to her infant sister, who she comes close to injuring. She even gets violent with Anne Sullivan when she first appears.

So, Helen's status before Anne's appearance is essentially that of a tolerated pet animal. Her family expects she will never be independent, have manners, or be able to pursue a proper education. They have given up on her and Helen's reaction to this ostracization is anger. Anne's teaching and patience allow her a chance to find a new way to interact with the world and other people.

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