Why do you think Gibson chose the particular way to end Act 2 of The Miracle Worker?William Gibson ends Act 2 with Annie singing a lullaby to Helen's doll as shafts of light illuminate the main...

Why do you think Gibson chose the particular way to end Act 2 of The Miracle Worker?

William Gibson ends Act 2 with Annie singing a lullaby to Helen's doll as shafts of light illuminate the main characters, Annie, Helen, Kate, Captain Keller in a various order one by one on the stage.

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ms-charleston-yawp's profile pic

Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

It's an interesting way to end Act II, isn't it?  In regards to the reasoning behind why it's done this way, I think Gibson wants us to focus on two things:

  • Annie's progression of feeling towards Helen
  • The Keller family's progression of feeling towards Annie & Helen

Both sets of progression are the same:  dislike to admiration, and even love.

It's an interesting start to this episode as well.  Annie is exhausted after using Percy to teach Helen late at night.  Annie has just realized, and imparts to Helen that "all I have to teach you is--one word.  Everything."  This is when Annie picks up the doll that causes such an issue previously, sits down, dons her glasses, and sings a very famous lullaby called "Hush Little Baby."

Note the progression of feeling here (especially in regards to the quotes).  Annie begins with the doll by whispering "to it in mock solicitude."  Moments later, Annie "lays it against her shoulder, and begins rocking with it, ... she talks the lullaby to it, humorously at first."  Further, Annie notes that, "the rhythm of the rocking takes her into the tune, softly, and more tenderly."

The progression is absolutely amazing!  She begins by mocking and ends with complete tenderness.  This scene corresponds exactly with Annie's feelings towards Helen.  Annie begins by mocking ("oh, not the drawers!") and ends with Tenderness ("Jealous are you?  All right, ...")  Point-blank, Annie is beginning to teach Helen "everything."  Often I like to go even further about this subject and say that Helen's feelings are progressing in the same way towards Annie:  from mocking by hiding the key to tenderly (and obediently) holding her hand out to learn new words.

In regards to what is happening with the family at this same moment, James, Keller, and Kate all stand "moveless" while each of them stop and "turned his/her head, as if hearing."  Quite simply, the family notices this change in Annie.  The family notices this change in Helen, too.  This is another reason why the act ends this way.  Remember the disarray when Annie first arrives!  Now look at how far Helen has come!  The family too is approaching tenderness towards this amazing teacher, Annie.

Let's talk about the love growing here, then.  Annie is feeling tenderness and love for Helen.  Helen is feeling tenderness and love for Annie.  The family is feeling tenderness and love towards Annie.  And yes, the family is even feeling more tenderness and love for Helen, herself.

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mkcapen1 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

It is pretty obvious that Gibson used the light to represent the awakening of each of the family members as well as Helen.  Annie is the light that came into Helen's life.  She is signing the lullaby to Helen to show Helen nurturing and to teach Helen the sign language in a manner that Helen can relate.

Annie has demonstrated that nurturing comes with restriction.  As you may recall in the beginning and through most of the play, Helen's parents were reluctant to say "no" to Helen because of her tantrums and disability.  Annie brought light into all of their world by teaching Helen the value of a word, and her parents the value of discipline and not to underestimate their child.  Each of the people in Helen's life were also lights that helped to illuminate and nurture her in the world.

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