Illustration of Helen Keller and her teacher, Annie Sullivan

The Miracle Worker

by William Gibson

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What is the salary of Helen's teacher in The Miracle Worker?

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Helen Keller's life has been chronicled in various ways; Helen herself wrote several books, the most revealing being The Story of My Life. After an illness as a baby, Helen was left blind and deaf. William Gibson's play, The Miracle Worker, refers to Helen's teacher, Annie Sullivan, who is able to change Helen's life forever.

Helen has become completely unmanageable due to her inability to make herself understood, and James (Helen's half-brother) is convinced that any attempt to help Helen is nothing more than "good money after bad." James has even suggested to his father that he "really ought to put her away."

The arrival of Annie, for $25 per month, causes much consternation and disbelief in the Keller household. Annie is quite headstrong herself, and Captain Keller is not in the habit of having his instructions ignored or dismissed, especially by "a paid teacher. Nothing more. . ."

Annie is given only two weeks in which to work exclusively with Helen, as it has become clear to her that she cannot gain Helen's trust with the family around, as they give in to Helen's every whim and permit her unreasonable behavior. At the end of the two weeks, however, Helen is "so manageable, contented, cleaner . . ." Helen's father is impressed with what Annie has done thus far.

Annie is persistent in her efforts, and when Captain Keller pays her her first month's salary, his attitude is quite different from his initial approach (when he wanted her to leave), and Annie's value is clear to him.

'It doesn't express what we feel. It doesn't pay our debt for what you've done. . . Taken a wild thing, and given us back a child.'

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Helen's teacher, Annie Sullivan, receives a salary of twenty-five dollars a month (Act I, Scene 3).

Annie has been living at the Perkins Institute in Boston, where she has recovered partial sight after having been rendered blind by trachoma. She has been recommended to the Kellers as a "suitable governess" for Helen, and is preparing to depart for the Kellers' home in Alabama. Annie is a feisty, strong-willed individual, prone to speaking her mind even when exercising tact would be more acceptable. As Mr. Aganos, Annie's counselor at Perkins, briefs her about Helen and the job to which she is going, he cautions her to use more discretion in situations than she has in the past. He tells her,

"Annie, be - is not as if you have so many offers to pick and choose."

The salary which Annie is being offered is actually quite generous, but Mr. Aganos warns her that her job will be difficult. He says,

"No one expects you to work miracles, even for twenty-five dollars a month."

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