Illustration of Helen Keller and her teacher, Annie Sullivan

The Miracle Worker

by William Gibson

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Critical Context (Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Literature Series)

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The Miracle Worker is the story of Annie Sullivan, not of Helen Keller. It is Sullivan who works the miracle, who does the impossible by teaching the blind, deaf, and seemingly unreachable child. Perhaps for that very reason, the play has been a favorite of educators. Sullivan is portrayed as the epitome of the best in all teachers—persistent, long-suffering, confident, yet also human, with a sharp tongue and little tolerance for interference.

Some children are drawn to the character of the young Helen as the epitome of irresponsibility. The real Helen Keller, however, faced much prejudice in her lifetime despite the respect and fame that she eventually earned. People with disabilities, especially disfiguring ones, rarely participated in society in the nineteenth century and were still unwelcome in most social circles of the mid-twentieth century. Although such discrimination had become both socially unacceptable and illegal by the late twentieth century, books, plays, films, and television shows that depict individuals coping with and succeeding despite disabilities are needed as more of these people take their places in society.

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Critical Context (Comprehensive Guide to Drama)