In The Miracle Worker, what is revealed about the character of James in Act 1 when Annie is locked in her room?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The play, The Miracle Worker, is about Annie Sullivan's initial impact on the Keller family when she arrives as a young and naive teacher, expected to teach the wild Helen who is so out of control that the family admit having considered sending her to an asylum. James is Helen's older half brother and he has become very cynical because Helen receives all the attention and any attempt he makes to connect with his father is dismissed. James is tired of Helen's out-of-control behavior, commenting on how "it's always almost..." when Helen causes trouble which is smoothed over moments before it becomes completely unmanageable like the time when she almost "dug Martha's eyes out" (act 1, scene 3). 

When Helen locks Annie in her room (towards the end of Act 1), James says very little. He answers Kate's question regarding Annie's whereabouts but does not tell anyone that Helen has actually locked her in. He is criticized for not saying something sooner and his response is "everyone's been telling me not to says anything." There is a smug satisfaction in James's words, especially as he leaves the scene whistling. These lines reveal James's apparent lack of interest which masks his deep desire to impress his father and earn his respect. These lines also reveal that he is content to let others (particularly Annie) experience Helen's all-consuming behavior to the exclusion of everything else. 

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The Miracle Worker

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