Illustration of Helen Keller and her teacher, Annie Sullivan

The Miracle Worker

by William Gibson

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What does Annie write is her biggest problem in teaching Helen?

Annie writes in a letter that her biggest problem in teaching young Helen is how to discipline her without breaking her spirit.

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At the beginning of act 2, Annie writes a letter conveying that her biggest problem is how to discipline young Helen without breaking her spirit.

As Annie sits down to write, Helen attempts to play nearby. She dumps out an entire drawer to use as a cradle for her doll. She then gropes about Annie's desk, knocking over an inkwell. As Annie quickly moves to clean up the mess, she tries to spell the word ink into Helen's palm. Helen is interested, but she still pulls away from Annie.

Annie tries to give Helen's busy hands something to do, so she hands her a sewing card, along with a needle and thread. After a bit of instruction, Helen is able to move the needle through the row of holes. Annie returns to writing her letter but is again interrupted when Helen accidentally pokes herself with the needle. In her frustration, she is about to "dash [the] brains" of her doll out on the floor when Annie quickly rescues it. Annie shows Helen how to take care of her doll, modeling how she should caress it and hold it gently in her arms. Annie then smiles and has Helen feel her own smile.

Helen's energy has been allowed to run wild, and she has been given very little discipline. As a result, she can be "customar[ily] unkempt" and fairly wild in her actions. Annie recognizes that if she can harness this "spirit" in a positive direction, Helen has great potential to persevere through her challenges. Her letter conveys her need to insist on "reasonable obedience" from Helen in order to be able to provide the instruction that Helen desperately needs.

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