Act 3 Summary

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Last Reviewed on April 14, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1304

Helen and Annie are in the garden house as the lights come up on the Keller home. Viney is preparing a room as Kate, Arthur, and James eat breakfast. The two narratives take place simultaneously onstage.

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In the garden house, Annie is trying to get Helen to understand that things have names; if she could learn that one concept, she would be able to communicate. She tries getting Helen to understand the concept of water by having her touch water as she spells the word.

At the breakfast table, James comments on their noiseless two weeks, and both Kate and Arthur shoot him a look. Kate agrees that it’s been quiet, and Arthur explains his feelings as a parent separated from his child. Arthur leaves the room, and James apologizes to Kate for his words. He pauses, then asks Kate what his father wants from him. Kate tells him to stand up to his father and that no one can do it for him.

Kate arrives at the garden house to check on the girls and bring them food. Kate watches Helen put down her stitching, tuck her napkin at her neck, and wait for her spoon. Kate is astonished at how civilized she has become, but Annie tells her that even though Helen is learning, she still can’t understand the letters as a way to communicate. Annie says she needs more time.

Kate thinks she’s made significant progress, but when Annie mentions the concept of words, Kate presses Annie to find out when Helen will learn. Annie says she doesn’t know but relates it to birds learning to fly—it just happens.

Annie signs that she needs more time, and when Kate tries to answer her by speaking, Annie tells her to sign her response; Helen needs Kate to learn her new language.

When Arthur enters with Belle, Annie tells him to leave. He says the two weeks are up, but Annie says she has until six. Arthur notices Helen’s new demeanor and is excited for her behavioral shift. He tells Annie she can have whatever she wants as payment, but Annie wants more time. They argue back and forth as Annie tries to explain that Helen needs to learn that things have names. Arthur refuses to give her more time. He and Kate want their daughter back at six o’clock.

Helen tries to spell “water” using Belle’s paws, but Annie is frustrated that she isn’t spelling “dog” instead. Annie grabs a pitcher of water and thrusts Helen’s hand into the tumbler. Helen still doesn’t understand.

Annie kisses Helen on the temple and sits back, acknowledging that her teaching time is over. Helen grabs for Annie’s hand. Annie holds her hand and starts spelling out items in the room, making Helen touch each one after she spells it.

The clock strikes six, and the servants come to break down the garden house, returning Helen and Annie to the Keller home. Kate enters the room and holds Helen for the first time in two weeks. She carries her like a baby up to the main home.

Annie is alone onstage, looking around in defeat. As she readies herself to leave the garden house, she hears the voices of her past. The boy repeats the phrase “forever, and ever.” As she shakes off the voices and rushes out the door, she runs into Arthur, who is waiting there with her first month’s salary. Arthur is deeply thankful, but Annie explains that she simply taught Helen the word “no.” She says, “obedience without understanding is a—blindness, too.”

Annie’s eyes fill with tears, but she pushes through the feelings by making sure Arthur understands that they also have to say “no,” or they will undo all her work. Arthur agrees and offers his arm to her. She takes it, and they walk to the main house for supper.

Helen goes into the dining room and gleefully touches remembered items. She then takes the keys out of both doors, ensuring they are unlocked, and gives the keys to Kate. Everyone enters the dining room and prepares to eat.

Annie gives Helen her napkin, and Helen reaches over to Kate to make sure she’s still there. As Ev and James converse, Annie notices that Helen has dropped her napkin. She picks it up and replaces it around Helen’s neck. A few moments later, Helen drops the napkin again. Kate moves to pick it up, but Annie stops her. Annie picks up the napkin and puts it on Helen. When Helen throws it down once more, Annie removes Helen’s plate and grabs her wrists. Kate tries to defend her child, but Arthur keeps to their agreement, telling Kate they have to listen to Annie.

This causes everyone distress. Ev chimes in and says that Helen dropping her napkin isn’t a problem, but Annie explains why it is. Finally, Kate relents and gives Helen to Annie. Helen begins to kick and utter noises, which makes Arthur stand up. He reaches for Helen, telling Annie that Helen is the guest of honor. He demands that her plate be brought back to the table. Arthur gives Helen her napkin and a fork and says they will “start over.”

Helen waits a moment, then throws the fork on the floor and grabs her food with her hands. James makes a snide comment about truly starting over. Next, Helen knocks the pitcher of water all over Annie’s dress. Annie snatches up Helen and the pitcher and brings her outside to refill it. She chides the family for undoing her work.

Arthur attempts to go after the girls in protest, but James blocks his path with his chair. James finally stands up to his father by telling him he’s wrong and that without Annie, they are doomed. Arthur is silent, then tells everyone to sit down, including James.

At the pump, Helen puts her hand on her cheek, looking for Kate. Annie tells her she isn’t here and continues to make Helen refill the pitcher. As Helen fills the pitcher, Annie spells “water” into Helen’s free hand. All of a sudden, Helen freezes and drops the pitcher, causing it to shatter. Annie freezes, too, but moments later, Helen says, “wah wah.” Annie reaches for her hand as Helen begins to spell it. She then drops to the ground and reaches for Annie’s hand. Annie spells “ground,” and Helen repeats it.

Helen is ecstatic as she runs from thing to thing, touching each item and waiting for Annie to spell. Annie yells for Kate. Kate and Arthur run outside, and Helen runs to Kate. When she feels Kate’s skirt, she spells “Mother.” Arthur grabs Helen’s hand, and she spells “Papa.” They hold her and celebrate this miracle.

Helen breaks free from her parents and runs to Annie. She points to her and puts her hand out. Annie spells “teacher.” Helen runs back to her parents, but only to find the keys in Kate’s pocket. She then spells the word “teacher” into Kate’s hand. She takes the keys and gives them to Annie. Annie hugs her and kisses her cheek. For Kate, this moment is both beautiful and heartbreaking. She waves off the servants and goes into the house with Arthur.

When Annie and Helen are alone, Annie spells “I, love, Helen” and goes on to spell “forever, and” but then stops herself. However, the voices from her past are no longer there. Without fear, she spells “ever” into Helen’s hand.

The family remains in the dining room as Helen pulls Annie back toward the house. Ev is at the door, holding it open for them, when the curtains close.

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