Illustration of Helen Keller and her teacher, Annie Sullivan

The Miracle Worker

by William Gibson
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What happened during Helen's miracle?

During Helen's miracle, she finally recognizes Annie's abilities to teach her sign language and begins to spell out the names of the common objects around her.

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Annie Sullivan tries unsuccessfully to connect sign language, which she taps into Helen's hand, to meaningful objects: cake, water, doll, dress. Helen is "responseless" and at times incredibly frustrated. Since she has the advantage of neither sight nor hearing, it is completely up to her to determine the purpose of Annie's taps and attempts at instruction.

Everything changes one day at the water pump, which is where "the miracle happens." Annie takes Helen's hand, as she has done many times before, and spells the word water into her palm. On this day, Helen drops her water pitcher, which shatters. She is transfixed, and suddenly, a light of recognition crosses her previously despondent face.

Helen attempts to verbally communicate, something she hasn't done since an illness in infancy robbed her of her senses. She says "wah wah" as Annie encourages her. Helen's hand plunges into the water as she spells into her own palm and then into Annie's hand.

Helen then drops to the ground, and Annie spells "ground." The young girl touches the pump, and Annie spells "pump."

Helen is so excited that she is trembling; her entire world has been opened, and she can finally participate in her environment. No longer isolated and alone, Helen has been gifted the ability to communicate, a true miracle.

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