Act 2 Summary
Annie is in her room, writing a letter about Helen’s lack of discipline, when Helen knocks over the inkwell. Annie jumps up and proceeds to clean her off, but not before she spells “ink” in her hand. The spelling engages Helen, so Annie touches her hand to the ink and spells the letters on her palm again. Annie finishes cleaning up and looks for something else to teach.
Annie grabs a sewing card and shows Helen how to stitch. Helen continues the task alone as Annie tries to finish her letter. However, Helen pricks her finger with the needle. She grabs her doll and tries to smash it on the floor, but Annie catches it in time. Annie takes the doll and hits its head off the floor while holding Helen’s hands. She spells out “Bad girl” and lets Helen feel the sad expression on her face. Then she has Helen hold her doll and kiss the hurt spot. She spells “Good, girl” in her hand and has Helen feel the smile on her face. Helen mimics her actions, but the mood shifts when Helen throws a pitcher on the floor.
Annie takes Helen’s hand and begins to spell again. Kate comes around the corner and watches in silence until she asks Annie what she’s doing. Annie explains she’s teaching Helen words. Kate doesn’t understand why, calling Helen “impaired.” Annie explains that when Kate talks to baby Mildred, it’s the same idea: Mildred can’t understand her, but over time, she’ll learn to speak and comprehend.
Helen takes the sewing needle and stabs Annie in the hand. As Annie tends to her wound, Kate quickly offers Helen a sweet. Annie is indignant, not understanding why Kate would offer a reward for such behavior. Kate understands Annie’s chiding and takes Helen to bed.
The next morning, Annie watches Helen pick at Kate’s breakfast plate while Arthur and James converse. She then watches Helen go from plate to plate taking food. When Helen reaches Annie’s plate, Annie blocks her attempt. Helen flails her arms, which catches everyone’s attention. Arthur tells Annie that Viney will get her another plate, but Annie says she doesn’t need one and grabs Helen’s wrists. Helen tries to kick Annie, but Annie moves her ankles, which causes Helen to kick the table. She falls to the floor and cries.
Arthur tells Annie that Helen is hurt and asks for “pity.” Annie calls Helen a “spoiled child” and shames the Kellers for never disciplining her. Arthur is outraged, but Annie tells everyone to leave the room so she can “unteach six years of pity.” Outside, Arthur tells Kate she must demand an apology from Annie, or Annie will be sent home.
In the dining room, Annie locks the doors. She clears everyone’s plate from the table except hers and Helen’s and returns to her meal. Helen tries to pull Annie’s chair and pinch her, but Annie continues to eat. When Helen pinches Annie for a second time, Annie retaliates by slapping Helen’s hands. Helen swings at Annie’s face, and Annie slaps Helen in retaliation.
Helen is taken aback. She walks around the table feeling for her mother, and when she realizes everyone is gone, she tries to leave. Annie picks Helen up and brings her back to the table. She does this several times until she gets Helen in her chair. Annie starts to eat her meal again, and this time when Helen reaches for her food, she redirects Helen’s hand to her own plate. Eventually, Helen eats from her own plate.
Helen motions for more food, but now she refuses to use her spoon. Each time Helen drops a spoon, Annie gives her a new one. Finally, Helen accepts the spoon but spits her food at Annie. Annie responds by splashing Helen with water. Shocked, Helen takes in a mouthful of food and swallows it. Annie quickly grabs her hand and spells “Good, girl.”
Hours later, Helen comes running out of the house and crashes into Kate’s knees. Without emotion, Annie explains that Helen ate from her own plate, used a spoon, and folded her napkin. She says the room is a wreck and heads to her bedroom. Kate...
(The entire section is 1,341 words.)