Illustration of Helen Keller and her teacher, Annie Sullivan

The Miracle Worker

by William Gibson

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From The Miracle Worker, how does Annie sharing her experience in an asylum persuade the Kellers to take her side? Do you think she does this on purpose? Why or why not?

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The Miracle Worker is a play, adapted for television, revealing the influence that Annie Sullivan has on Helen Keller after she has been left blind and deaf after an illness as a baby.

Annie works tirelessly to make Helen understand the manual alphabet which Helen thinks is just a game at first as she is unable to make any connection with language and communication. Annie perseveres with Helen, realizing that she first has to manage Helen's unruly behavior before she can start to make her understand how to communicate. Annie starts by teaching Helen some manners and by trying to make her family understand how their pity will not help Helen to develop. "It is less trouble to feel sorry for her than to teach her anything better, isn’t it?"

Frustrated by Helen's slow progress and her outbursts, her parents have previously considered putting Helen in an asylum "For mental defectives." Annie tells the Kellers about the state almshouse where she and her brother used "to play with the rats because we didn’t have toys." Annie wants Helen to depend solely on her and stresses that even though she herself learnt to be strong from her terrible experience in the almshouse, they should not send Helen to such an asylum because it's a terrible place and Helen has no need to develop her character this way. "She’s strong enough."

Helen's mother is desperate to try whatever will work for Helen and her father is persuaded to allow Annie to take "control" because "All’s fair in love and war, Captain Keller. You never cut supplies?" She cleverly draws a comparison to his own experiences. This persuades them to let Annie try. 

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