Illustration of Helen Keller and her teacher, Annie Sullivan

The Miracle Worker

by William Gibson

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In The Miracle Worker's second act, how does Annie distract and teach Helen during her tantrum?

Expert Answers

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Helen actually throws a fit because of her parents' absence twice in Act Two.  The first time is at the dinner table when Annie has excused everyone but Helen.  The second time is at the cottage when Helen is given to Annie for two weeks.  Because the latter ends with Helen's fit only, I am assuming you are speaking of the first instance.  That being said, here is my answer:

When Helen throws a fit after finding her parents no longer at the dinner table, Annie distracts Helen with a contest of physical strength.  Helen must learn to mind Annie if she is to be a suitable teacher.  Therefore, as Helen runs from one door to another and trying to escape, Annie continually grabs Helen, placing her back in her chair.  This happens again and again and again.  Finally, Helen sits there "in a sullen biding," but minding Annie nevertheless (61).  Up until this point, Helen has only been pitied and spoiled.  Annie, of course, expects Helen to behave properly. 

Annie's next distraction and teaching tool is eating from her own plate, herself.  Helen explores, figures out what is going on, and is allowed to wolf down a bit of food in her usual way before Annie returns both with more food and a spoon.  Of course, by this point, Helen has totally forgotten about the absence of her parents and, know it or not, is busy learning.

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