The Miracle Worker is a play which centers on the amazing work of Annie Sullivan in her efforts to help the deaf and blind Helen Keller be more than the pitied and "deprived child" around whom her whole family must tread carefully for fear of incurring Helen's temper. When Annie arrives, she can barely control Helen who is allowed to behave almost animal-like with no sense of manners or discipline of any sort, her family, and especially her mother, Kate, feeling too guilty to curb her misbehavior.
Helen relies heavily on her mother's touch and has developed her own signal to show that she wants her mother when she touches her cheek "in a meaningful gesture." Helen also has a friend in the family dog, Belle. It seems that everybody, except her half brother James, gives in to Helen and she is constantly rewarded with sweets and cakes to appease her even when her actions are totally unacceptable and out of control. Captain Keller, Helen's father, finds her actions to be unacceptable but always gives up or gives in to Helen's demands. Annie soon realizes that all of this has led to Helen's complete disregard for anything and anyone. Annie has no intention of treating Helen like "eggs everyone was afraid would break."(Act I)
Kate is impressed that Annie manages to get Helen to actually fold her napkin and it stirs the faintest element of hope in her. She will do anything if she thinks it may help improve Helen's frustrations. Annie's words are harsh but "I don’t think Helen’s worst handicap is deafness or blindness. I think it’s your love. And pity."(Act II) Kate is so concerned about thoughts of putting Helen into an asylum that she even agrees to relinquish control and persuades Helen's father to give Annie a chance. Even after a short time, the family can see a difference, although James persists in mocking Annie's efforts and, despite their scepticism, especially Helen's father's, Annie eventually achieves the near impossible and not just in "housebreaking" thier child. Helen's relationship with Annie develops from here onwards as Helen has shown little affection for Annie up to this point. Helen's father is grateful that Annie has "Taken a wild thing, and given us back a child."(Act II)and has a newfound respect for Annie.