Reflect on how Helen Keller was treated at a young age in the miracle worker.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The treatment of Helen Keller as a child only is a testament to how Annie is a "miracle worker."  Helen is not understood as a child.  She is seen as willful and defiant, someone that is incapable of learning "manners" and full of ingratitude at the "good" people who are trying to teach her.  She is seen as "handicapped," something that impacts the way people view her.  Interestingly enough, this manner of treatment also goes to show how the people who judged her might be as "handicapped" as she is albeit in a different manner.  Helen was treated as a burden, to an extent, someone that could no longer be helped.  Her father feels that she has expended all opportunities for growth, reflecting how she is treated.  The family is at a loss in terms of what to do.  Helen's condition and the particular challenges she faces is something that proves to be too much for the family to address as she grows up, which is part of the reason why Helen is unable to forge a connection with anyone in it.  The treatment of Helen Keller in the early part of her life reflects how social attitudes towards those who are different than the norm are more in line with intolerance and a lack of inclusivity.

wannam eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At a young age, Helen is allowed to do as she pleases most of the time.  Her family views her as incapable of learning.  It is to Helen's disadvantage that her family basically ignores her.  They are willing to give her whatever she wants in order to satisfy her outbursts but they aren't willing to take the time to learn how to communicate with her or to teach her the things other children her age are taught.  When Anne Sullivan arrived, all that changed.  Anne realized that it was in Helen's best interest to educate her.  Being deaf and blind certainly didn't diminish Helen's intellectual abilities as her family seemed to believe.  Anne would not allow Helen to continue communicating through random, made-up gestures but insisted she use sign-language.  Anne also forced Helen to observe certain manners such as eating with silverware rather than her hands.  At first, it appears that Anne is cruel to Helen, but we soon see that while Helen's family has given her whatever she wanted this wasn't always in her best interest.