In The Miracle Worker, how do the Kellers prevent or hinder Helen's learning?
It is clear that throughout this moving and poignant play, Annie does not just have to battle with Helen herself, but also with Helen's parents and their way of coping with Helen's disabilities. This is a battle that begins right from the very beginning of Annie's arrival at the Keller household and is only resolved at the end when Helen learns to connect words with the objects they represent. In particular, Annie struggles with Keller himself as she seeks to try and get the family to change their way of thinking concerning how to deal with Helen. Consider the following exchange:
KELLER: Miss Sullivan, you are here only as a paid teacher. Nothing more, and not to lecture-
ANNIE: I can't unteach her six years of pity if you can't stand up to one tantrum! Old Stonewall, indeed. Mrs. Keller, you promised me help.
KATE: Indeed I did, we truly want to-
ANNIE: Then leave me alone with her. Now!
Again and again Annie is shown to have to struggle with the Kellers to try to do what she thinks is best to teach Helen how to operate in the world and learn. After her seclusion with Helen, she insists that the Kellers do not give in to Helen's old ways so that Helen continues to learn and develop:
Don't smooth anything else out for me, don't interfere in any way! I treat her like a seeing child because I ask her to see, I expect her to see, don't undo what I do!
This quote is significant because it shows how the Kellers, by "going easy" on Helen after not seeing her for two weeks, threaten to "undo" all of the good work that Annie has done, holding Helen back and keeping her in her trapped state.