In The Miracle Worker, Helen Keller is portrayed as an unruly, out of control, child who suffers more from her parents' pity than from her affliction, having been left deaf and blind after "congestion of the brain and stomach" when she was a baby. James, Helen's half- brother, has made previous suggestions about placing "defective" Helen in an asylum but when Annie Sullivan arrives, things are set to change. Helen's father never trusts this "schoolgirl" and is sceptical about her potential for achievement as he sees her as "nothing but a burden! Incompetent, impertinent, ineffectual, immodest..." and he is about to fire her. It is the desperation of Helen's mother Kate and talk of the asylum, that persuades him to allow Annie two more weeks to work with Helen.
Annie reveals what life is like in an asylum, Helen's possible only other option. Annie is still haunted by thoughts of her brother, Jimmy, who died in just such an asylum. Kate is moved by Annie's descriptions but Annie maintains that it is what gave her the courage and strength to carry on. Helen's father acknowledges that Helen may be a little more manageable - after all she did fold her napkin! - but he does not feel that Annie can achieve anything. His wife's desperation and discussions between Annie and Kate about how they can organize for Annie and Helen to stay in the little house in the garden, eventually convince him.