Anne Sullivan (the protagonist) was shaped by her childhood. Born in poverty to an Irish Catholic family, she was sent to a mental hospital and was raised among the mentally ill. With her brother Jimmy, Anne survived the horrible conditions until her brother’s died from tuberculosis. After she became legally blind, Anne was sent to a school for the blind to complete her education. Upon graduation, she accepted a position as a teacher for Helen Keller in Tuscumbia, Alabama. Anne explains her background to Helen’s step-brother, Jimmy, in an effort to make him understand why she will not give up.
Anne’s strength of character guided her in facing the conflict from the Keller family as a Northerner and Irish (the Irish were discriminated against during this time in American history). She persevered in spite of Captain Keller’s antagonism, Mrs. Keller’s interference, and Helen’s animosity. Determined to reach Helen in the same way she herself was reached and rescued, Anne managed to lead Helen out of the darkness of ignorance.