Teaching to Learn in The Miracle Worker
William Gibson’s heart-rending, inspirational drama The Miracle Worker masterfully illustrates the process of teaching and learning in life. As the story unfolds, a lonely first-time teacher Annie Sullivan is called to the Keller household to help six-year-old Helen, blind and deaf from a high fever. The entire household caters to Helen’s tantrums, rewarding her with candy for her highly-inappropriate behavior until Annie steps bravely forward with her belief that “obedience, is, the, gateway, through, which, knowledge, enters, the, mind, of, the, child –” (I.1).
While obedience is the first step to learning, it cannot be the last. Annie teaches Helen what she needs to know about obedience. As the day comes closer to which Annie has to bring back Helen to the Keller household. She so desperately wants for Helen to “reach!” out to her and to depend only on her as a guide (III.1). Mrs. Sullivan, after Helen is back in her old environment at the house, says that she feels as if she has not done her job. She is unsatisfied. Annie wants to teach Helen, “…everything the earth is full of…everything that’s ours for a wink and it’s gone, and what we are on it, the – light we bring to it and leave behind in – words, everything we feel, think, know – and share, in words, so not a soul is in darkness, or done with, even in the grave” but believes that those two weeks alone with Helen were not enough (III.1).
The first day back Helen has a tantrum, not wanting to eat properly as she was taught. Annie of course does not want for Helen to forget. She makes Helen refill a pitcher of water that she had thrown at her. For a moment Helen is feeling the water as it is being pumped out. Helen tries to pronounce the word ‘water’. Mrs. Sullivan finally realizes that her assumption of Helen was always right. She is a bright child, who just needed a teacher. When Helen understands at last, she runs to Annie and asks her to spell her name....
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