The Miracle Worker Characters
by William Gibson

The Miracle Worker book cover
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The Miracle Worker Characters

The main characters in The Miracle Worker are Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller, Captain Arthur Keller, Kate Keller, and James Keller.

  • Annie Sullivan is a twenty-year-old graduate of the Perkins Institute for the Blind who is sent to Alabama as Helen Keller's teacher.
  • Helen Keller is a six-year-old girl who has been left blind and deaf by a childhood illness. She learns to communicate with Annie's help.
  • Captain Arthur Keller is Helen's father. He initially resists Annie's teaching methods.
  • Kate Keller is Helen's mother. She convinces her husband to let Annie continue teaching Helen.
  • James Keller is Captain Arthur Keller's son from a previous marriage. He struggles to stand up to his father.

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Annie Sullivan

Annie is a twenty-year-old Irish woman from Boston who is sent to Alabama to help the Keller family. After losing her parents at a young age, she grew up in an asylum and lost her vision due to trachoma. However, after residing at the Perkins Institution for the Blind and receiving multiple surgeries, Annie was able to regain her vision and learn to read and write. She is sent to the Keller home in hopes of teaching Helen how to “speak,” but she has her own lesson to learn, as she repeatedly hears the haunting voice of her brother, Jimmie, who passed away from an illness when they were young.

When Annie first arrives at the Keller home, she is perceived as somewhat heartless due to her honest and direct communication style, which is coupled with her forceful lessons at the dinner table. Annie wholeheartedly believes that teaching Helen means ensuring she is disciplined. However, the audience learns that Annie’s authoritarian style is simply a facade used to quell the voice of her brother begging for her to “stay.”

Annie has a fiery personality, stemming from her rough upbringing and the death of her brother, but this stubbornness and tenacity drive her to treat Helen as an equal and to believe Helen will succeed at learning just like any other child. In a sense, Annie’s lack of pity and unflappable demeanor are a gift to Helen, as Annie is able to provide Helen with the consistency and discipline she has never received from her family. When Helen has her breakthrough, however, Annie releases the pain of her brother’s death and opens her heart to Helen and her family. Annie’s demeanor changes. She realizes that she, just like Helen, needs love and affection to grow.

Helen Keller

Helen is a six-year-old girl who became blind, deaf, and mute from an illness at the age of one-and-a-half and subsequently became a terror around the Keller home. Because Helen’s parents are not trained to teach her, they end up spoiling Helen by giving her food and candy when she starts to cry or hit. However, it’s clear—at least to Annie Sullivan—that Helen is an intelligent child, as demonstrated when Helen wants eyes for her towel doll and hides the key to Annie’s room.

When Annie arrives, Helen is forced to take responsibility for her actions, as Annie begins to discipline her for her negative behaviors—but Helen doesn’t learn Annie’s lessons without a fight. Helen is physically violent toward Annie, unable to understand that Annie is trying to teach her to communicate.

Over time, Helen’s ability to reason and her deep curiosity help her learn the alphabet through signing. Because Annie never gives up and continues to reinforce basic rules, Helen learns that words have meaning and can help her communicate with her family; she learns she doesn’t have to hit or bite to get what she needs.

Miraculously, Helen speaks at the end of the play, a behavior she had just started to enact before she became ill in infancy. Through her tenacious teacher, Helen becomes a well-mannered young girl who can communicate with the world. She demonstrates perseverance and tenacity, showing the world that disability does not equal hopelessness.

Captain Arthur Keller

Arthur, also known as “Captain,” is Kate’s...

(The entire section is 1,263 words.)