What new problems does Annie face in Act 2 of The Miracle Worker?

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Oh, you're right that Annie faces new problems in Act 2!  Annie gives us a glimpse into those problems with the letter she is writing at the beginning of the act (each word interrupted by commas to indicate how slow Annie has to write because of her eyes).  "Nobody, here, has, attempted, to, control, her."  "How, to, discipline, her, without, breaking, her, spirit."  "I, shall, insist, on, reasonable, obedience, from, the, start--"  These three lines nicely illuminate Annie's three problems:

  • Helen has never been controlled.  Now she will be.
  • Discipline must be carefully handled so as not to break Helen's spirit.
  • Annie will insist on absolute obedience.

But this list of problems wouldn't be complete without the last one looming:

  • The Kellers don't agree.

Why are these the problems new?  Annie doesn't yet have complete charge of Helen apart from the family.  She will soon. However, nothing that Annie does matters at all until the spoiled child is tamed.  The fact that Helen is spoiled (out of Captain Keller's desire for "peace" and Kate's pity for her daughter) is the biggest obstacle to Helen's ability to learn.

Then begins, perhaps, the most trying scene in American Drama:  the Keller breakfast scene.  This scene shows the result of the Keller's treatement of Helen out of pity and shame.  There is a war in this scene, a war beteween Helen and Annie.  Annie wins.  The result?

"She ate with a spoon.  Herself. ... And she folded her napkin."  And Annie gets complete charge of Helen in a separate place with one of the worst problems of all:  limited time.