Illustration of Helen Keller and her teacher, Annie Sullivan

The Miracle Worker

by William Gibson

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What are three symbols in The Miracle Worker?

Quick answer:

Three symbols in The Miracle Worker are locks, dolls, and water.

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William Gibson's play The Miracle Worker is full of symbolism. Two common items and one common substance Gibson uses as symbols are locks (and the keys that fit into them), dolls, and water.

Locks are symbols of the way in which Helen is shut off and locked away from the rest of the world by her inability to see and hear. In retaliation, Helen is often the one who locks doors, notably when she locks Annie Sullivan in her room. It is only with great patience and persistence that Annie is able to release Helen and unlock her potential.

Dolls are used not as playthings in the play, but as devices for education and instruction. Annie brings a doll with her to the Kellers' home and uses it to teach Helen to communicate. Helen also learns how to behave responsibly when she has to take care of the doll.

The most powerful symbol in the play is water, which represents the miraculous. It is by connecting the feeling of water on her hand to the spelling of the word water that Helen finally breaks out of her solitude and begins the phase of her life in which she will be able to interact with others. Water is already invested with religious symbolism (in the Christian rite of baptism, for example), and Gibson takes full advantage of this, associating it with the miracle of Helen's rebirth.

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