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The Miracle Worker Book Essay

One-and-a-half-year-old Helen Keller is sick with acute congestion and a high fever. She makes it through the ordeal, but after the doctor leaves, her parents, Captain Arthur and Kate Keller, are horrified to discover that the illness left Helen deaf and blind. Five years pass and the Keller family is unable to find any doctor, teacher, or quack who can do anything to help Helen. The undisciplined, groping, curious girl is left to her own devices, grabbing toys from other children, knocking papers off desks, and eating off other people’s plates. When she overturns the cradle, tumbling the baby, Mildred, onto the floor, the Captain agrees to write to yet another rumored specialist in the hope that someone might be able to train Helen.

The Captain’s letter eventually finds its way to Boston and the Perkins Institute for the Blind, where a governess is found for Helen. Twenty-year-old Annie Sullivan just completed her own education at Perkins. She was an abandoned child, left to care for her sickly brother, Jimmie, who died in the state almshouse. Now, after nine eye operations and a turbulent education, Annie is being sent to try to teach Helen. Her teacher, Mr. Anagnos, warns her not to expect miracles.

The Keller family is shocked by Annie’s youth and inexperience. It is especially difficult for the Captain’s indolent son, James, to see a woman no older than himself given this responsibility. When Annie announces that she intends to teach Helen language, Kate laments that they were not even able to teach her to sit still. From the moment of her arrival, Annie begins to fingerspell into Helen’s hands. The first attempt to impose some structure onto Helen erupts the moment the child does not get her own way. Helen hits Annie in the face with a doll, knocking out a tooth. Helen then locks Annie in Helen’s room and gropes her way out to the pump in the yard. When James smugly informs the Captain of Annie’s plight, the Captain angrily has a ladder fetched and carries the humiliated Annie to the ground. Annie watches the family go in to eat dinner and turns to Helen, who, believing she is alone, gleefully drops Annie’s room key down the well.

The next morning James and the Captain are arguing again, resulting in James comparing Annie to General Grant at the Battle of Vicksburg. At breakfast, when Helen gropes her way around the table, Annie refuses to allow Helen to eat off her plate. A battle of wills follows, with Annie expelling the family from the dining room and physically forcing Helen to sit down and eat properly. The siege lasts all morning, leaving the room a disaster, but Helen eats breakfast with her own spoon and folds her napkin. Exhausted and discouraged, Annie goes upstairs to pack. In the meantime, the Captain informs Kate that the insolent teacher must be fired. Instead of giving up, Annie develops a plan. She convinces the Kellers that in order to succeed, she must have control of every aspect of Helen’s life. The Kellers reluctantly agree to set Annie up in their garden house and leave her in complete charge of Helen for two weeks. After disorienting Helen by driving her around in a wagon, she is delivered into Annie’s care. At first Helen refuses to have anything to do with the unyielding teacher who demands personal discipline. Annie finally gets Helen to cooperate by fingerspelling into the hand of another child. Helen’s jealousy overcomes her and she forces herself onto the teacher.

At the end of the two weeks, the wild beast that was Helen seems to be tamed. Annie spells thousands of words into her hands. Helen learns eighteen nouns and three verbs. It is all just a finger game, however; Helen does not connect the fingerspelling to the concept of language. Annie begs for more time but is denied, even though the Kellers are overwhelmed with what she accomplished. The Captain agrees, at the very least, to maintain the self-control that was instilled in Helen. The family sits down to eat a celebratory meal, but back in her old environment, Helen immediately tries to revert to her undisciplined ways. When Annie does not tolerate it, Helen throws a tantrum and dumps the water pitcher onto Annie. Ignoring the protests of the Captain, Annie pulls Helen into the yard and forces her to refill the pitcher at the pump. Then the miracle happens. As Annie spells W-A-T-E-R into her hand, Helen makes the connection that the finger game spells a word that means the thing. Helen rushes around grasping everything in reach while Annie spells its name into her hand. She finds and hugs her mother, and then turns to find her teacher, whom she embraces and pulls into the house to join the Kellers at the table.

NO ONE COULD REACH HER.

Twelve-year-old Helen Keller lived in a prison of silence and darkness. Born deaf, blind, and mute, with no way to express herself or comprehend those around her, she flew into primal rages against anyone who tried to help her, fighting tooth and nail with a strength born of furious, unknowing desperation.

Then Annie Sullivan came. Half-blind herselfNO ONE COULD REACH HER.

Twelve-year-old Helen Keller lived in a prison of silence and darkness. Born deaf, blind, and mute, with no way to express herself or comprehend those around her, she flew into primal rages against anyone who tried to help her, fighting tooth and nail with a strength born of furious, unknowing desperation.

Then Annie Sullivan came. Half-blind herself, but possessing an almost fanatical determination, she would begin a frightening and incredibly moving struggle to tame the wild girl no one could reach, and bring Helen into the world at last.......more

Mass Market Paperback, 128 pages

Published June 25th 2002 by Pocket (first published 1956)

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