Illustration of Helen Keller and her teacher, Annie Sullivan

The Miracle Worker

by William Gibson

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In the play, The Miracle Worker, how does Helen's mother discover that Helen cannot see or hear?

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Helen Keller is well-known as the blind, deaf and dumb girl who went on to achieve to an extent that even sighted and hearing people would find extraordinary. She credits Annie Sullivan and her dedication and purpose to being the key which opens the door to communication. In The Miracle Worker, the audience or reader recognizes Annie's abilities as she steadfastly guides Helen to better communication and away from an atmosphere of chaos and a family that feels only pity for Helen, preventing it from helping her to strive for anything to the point that she is wild and animal-like in her behavior when Annie arrives. From the day that Helen learns the word "W-A-T-E-R" and its meaning, she becomes unstoppable. 

The play opens with Helen's parents around her bed with the doctor, Helen having just survived "acute congestion of the stomach and brain."  The doctor admits that he did not expect Helen to make it through the night but now that she has, her parents can expect a full recovery. As the doctor leaves, Kate leans over Helen and talks to her which is when she realizes that Helen is not responding to her movements. Kate then shouts and still Helen does not respond. No amount of movement or noise is stirring Helen and her father confirms this. 

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