Illustration of Helen Keller and her teacher, Annie Sullivan

The Miracle Worker

by William Gibson

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What are the implications of Annie's request in Act II of The Miracle Worker?

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Annie's request is to work with Helen away from the family.  It is a request that essentially defines the drama.  Annie recognizes that the transformative lessons that she wishes to teach Helen cannot be fully implemented with the family's presence.  The learned behavior of the family in tolerating Helen's outburst as well as Helen's manipulation of the situation so as to constantly remain empowered even when she does wrong is what drives her request.  It is greeted with skepticism by The Captain, but Kate and Aunt Ev believe that it might help.  The implications of the request helps to establish a collision of wills between Annie and Helen, without external intervention to support Helen and further challenge Annie.  At the same time, the request clearly establishes the relationship between teacher and student.  There is a sensibility that "the miracle" can only happen when both forces are locked into and focused on the goal of learning without challenges.  This request moves into the development of their relationship, suggesting very clearly that Annie believes isolation with Helen is the only way in which true learning can happen and true penetration of lessons can be evident.  

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