The Touch of Magic Critical Essays

Lorena A. Hickok


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Any biography of Sullivan must, of necessity, also be the biography of Keller, so entwined were their lives. Hickok establishes this work as a biography of Sullivan first by providing her early life as a story in itself rather than as background or explanation of the accomplishments for which she became famous.

Hickok’s dark and depressing portrait of Sullivan’s early life is an indictment of society, both individually and collectively, which is documented in other sources as well. Hickok balances her criticism of Sullivan’s family and the state of Massachusetts, however, with an acknowledgment of Sullivan’s stubbornness and violent outbursts. Hickok also attempts to soften the fact that her blindness should have been prevented by pointing out that it was ignorance rather than maliciousness that caused her suffering. The cruel and vulgar inmates and attendants at Tewksbury are offset by a few kind and caring people, and the despair and discouragement Sullivan suffers are offset by a glimmer of hope that she may someday go to school.

The achievement of the impossible dream of going to Perkins Institute for the Blind is clouded by the reality of how poorly Sullivan fits in. Even her joy at receiving sight at age sixteen is dulled by the knowledge that she never should have been blind in the first place, nor should she have suffered through years of pointless surgeries and painful treatments.

Annie’s struggle with the...

(The entire section is 593 words.)