Illustration of Helen Keller and her teacher, Annie Sullivan

The Miracle Worker

by William Gibson

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In The Miracle Worker, how does Annie's past influence her interactions with Helen?

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The Miracle Worker is a play by William Gibson which gives a different perspective other than Helen's own, on life in the Keller household after Helen is left blind and deaf from an illness as a baby. Before Annie arrives, the reader learns that Annie has "accomplished so much" at the Perkins' Institute and that she could not even write her name when she arrived there. Furthermore, she is leaving the Institute where she has been a pupil and will now be the teacher. 

When Annie arrives, the audience become aware that life has been very difficult for the family and that Helen has no boundaries and is pitied more than anything. Annie has an arduous task to convince a non-communicative Helen that her life is about to change and Captain Keller, Helen's father remains skeptical about what Annie can even achieve as "she is only a child" herself, he claims. 

Annie's past affects the way she responds to Helen because Annie is partially-sighted herself so has some understanding of Helen's frustrations. Annie also suffers terrible guilt because she feels that she let her young brother Jimmie down. Jimmie died and Annie feels responsible for not having taken care of him, even though there was nothing she could have done. Annie is determined that she will not fail Helen. It is that determination that ensures that she is not defeated; such like Helen's father expects. Annie remains resolute and stands up to the Captain and convinces Helen's mother that even a small step forward- like Helen folding her napkin- is the beginning of Helen's journey to communication. 


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