The Miracle Worker

by

William Gibson

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Helen Keller Character Analysis

Helen Keller is one of the two main characters of The Miracle Worker. In real life, she was one of the most famous Americans of her time: despite being blind and deaf, she learned how to communicate, and later became a famous author and political activist. In Gibson’s play, however, Helen is a young child, unable to communicate with anyone until the very end of the play. Helen is wild and unruly: because nobody has ever been able to communicate with her, she doesn’t know how to behave, and often doesn’t even seem to know that she is misbehaving. Helen is clearly a smart young child: she’s endlessly inquisitive about the world, as evidenced by the fact that she’s always moving around the room, trying to learn about new objects and people in her environment. And yet, Helen struggles to learn—not just because she’s deaf and blind but also because her family spoils her, giving her no real incentive to change her behavior. With the help of her teacher, Annie Sullivan, Helen learns how to use sign language to talk and learn. Although she utters only one word, “wah wah” (i.e., water), Helen’s energy and animal-like physicality give readers a window into her personality: she’s clearly a clever, curious child, who hungers to learn everything there is to know about the world.

Helen Keller Quotes in The Miracle Worker

The The Miracle Worker quotes below are all either spoken by Helen Keller or refer to Helen Keller. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Communication Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Scribner edition of The Miracle Worker published in 2008.
Act 1 Quotes

KELLER: Katie. How many times can you let them break your heart?
KATE: Any number of times.

Related Characters: Kate Keller (speaker), Captain Arthur Keller (speaker), Helen Keller
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

ANAGNOS: Deaf blind, mute—who knows? She is like a little safe, locked, that no one can open. Perhaps there is a treasure inside.

Related Characters: Anagnos (speaker), Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller
Related Symbols: Sight and blindness
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

ANNIE: I have three big advantages over Dr. Howe that money couldn't buy for you. One is his work behind me, I've read every word he wrote about it and he wasn't exactly what you'd call a man of few words. Another is to be young, why, I've got energy to do anything. The third is, I've been blind.

Related Characters: Annie Sullivan (speaker), Helen Keller, Dr. Howe
Related Symbols: Sight and blindness
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

KELLER: Here’s a houseful of grownups can't cope with the child, how can an inexperienced half-blind Yankee schoolgirl manage her?

Related Characters: Captain Arthur Keller (speaker), Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller
Related Symbols: Sight and blindness
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

ANNIE: All right, Miss O'Sullivan. Let's begin with doll.

Related Characters: Annie Sullivan (speaker), Helen Keller
Related Symbols: Dolls
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

JAMES: Spell, she doesn't know the thing has a name, even.

Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

ANNIE: You think I'm so easily gotten rid of? You have a thing or two to learn, first. I have nothing else to do.

Related Characters: Annie Sullivan (speaker), Helen Keller
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2 Quotes

ANNIE: Any baby. Gibberish, grown-up gibberish, baby-talk gibberish, do they understand one word of it to start? Somehow they begin to. If they hear it, I'm letting Helen hear it.

Related Characters: Annie Sullivan (speaker), Helen Keller, Kate Keller
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:

KATE: Miss Annie. You see, she's accustomed to helping herself from our plates to anything she—
ANNIE [Evenly]: Yes, but, I'm not accustomed to it.

Related Characters: Annie Sullivan (speaker), Kate Keller (speaker), Helen Keller
Page Number: 47-48
Explanation and Analysis:

KATE: My Helen—folded her napkin—
(And still erect, with only her head in surrender, KATE for the first time that we see loses her protracted war with grief; but she will not let a sound escape her, only the grimace of tears comes, and sobs that shake her in a grip of silence.)

Related Characters: Kate Keller (speaker), Helen Keller
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:

BOY’S VOICE: You ain't goin' to school, are you, Annie?
ANNIE [whispering]: When I grow up.
BOY’S VOICE: You ain't either, Annie. You're goin' to stay here take care of me.
ANNIE: I'm goin' to school when I grow up.
BOY’S VOICE: You said we'll be together, forever and ever and ever–
ANNIE [fierce]; I'm goin' to school when I grow up!

Related Characters: Annie Sullivan (speaker), James Sullivan / “Jimmie” (speaker), Helen Keller
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

ANNIE: Mrs. Keller, I don't think Helen's worst handicap is deafness or blindness. I think it's your love. And pity.

Related Characters: Annie Sullivan (speaker), Helen Keller, Kate Keller
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:

ANNIE: The first year we had eighty, seventy died. The room Jimmie and I played in was the deadhouse, where they kept the bodies till they could dig—
KATE [closes her eyes]: Oh, my dear—
ANNIE: —the graves.
(She is immune to KATE's compassion.)
No, it made me strong. But I don't think you need send Helen there. She's strong enough.

Related Characters: Annie Sullivan (speaker), Kate Keller (speaker), James Sullivan / “Jimmie” (speaker), Helen Keller
Page Number: 69
Explanation and Analysis:

JAMES: That she isn't. That there's such a thing as-dullness of heart. Acceptance. And letting go. Sooner or later we all give up, don't we?
ANNIE: Maybe you all do. It’s my idea of the original sin.

Related Characters: Annie Sullivan (speaker), James Keller (speaker), Helen Keller
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 3 Quotes

ANNIE: Yes, what's it to me? They're satisfied. Give them back their child and dog, both housebroken, everyone's satisfied. But me, and you.

Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

JAMES: She's right, Kate's right, I'm right, and you're wrong. If you drive her away from here it will be over my dead-chair, has it never occurred to you that on one occasion you might be consummately wrong?

Page Number: 107
Explanation and Analysis:

HELEN: Wah. Wah.

Related Characters: Helen Keller (speaker)
Related Symbols: Water
Page Number: 108
Explanation and Analysis:

(KATE moves to HELEN, touches her hand questioningly, and HELEN spells a word to her. KATE comprehends it, their first act of verbal communication, and she can hardly utter the word aloud, in wonder, gratitude, and deprivation; it is a moment in which she simultaneously finds and loses a child.)

KATE: Teacher?

Related Characters: Kate Keller (speaker), Helen Keller
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:

ANNIE: I, love, Helen.
(She clutches the child to her, tight this time, not spelling, whispering into her hair.)
Forever, and—
(She stops. The lights over the pump are taking on the color of the past, and it brings ANNIE’s head up, her eyes opening in fear; and as slowly as though drawn she rises, to listen, with her hand on HELEN’s shoulders. She waits, waits, listening with ears and eyes both, slowly here, slowly there: and hears only silence. There are no voices. The color passes on, and when her eyes come back to HELEN she can breathe the end of her phrase without fear:)
—ever.

Related Characters: Annie Sullivan (speaker), Helen Keller
Page Number: 112
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Miracle Worker LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Miracle Worker PDF

Helen Keller Character Timeline in The Miracle Worker

The timeline below shows where the character Helen Keller appears in The Miracle Worker. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
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...post an editorial in his newspaper. Suddenly, she notices that the baby, whose name is Helen, doesn’t seem to be able to see. She shouts her child’s name, but the child... (full context)
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Five years pass. Helen, now a little girl, sits outside by a water pump, next to a dog and... (full context)
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As soon as Helen attacks Martha, Percy rings a bell, which summons Kate Keller to come outside. Kate pulls... (full context)
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As Kate tries to pull Helen into the house, Aunt Ev murmurs, “Something ought to be done for that child.” She... (full context)
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Meanwhile, Helen runs her fingers over the doll. When she runs her fingers over the doll’s face,... (full context)
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...James mutters, “Father stands up, that makes it a fact.” He suggests that Arthur send Helen to an asylum, adding, “It’s not pleasant to see her about all the time.” Furiously,... (full context)
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Helen crawls over to Aunt Ev and pulls at the buttons on Ev’s dress. She’s annoyed,... (full context)
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Helen moves over to the cradle in which Mildred is sleeping. Suddenly, she overturns the cradle... (full context)
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...situation with her. She is now a graduate of the Perkins School. She will teach Helen Keller for twenty-five dollars a month. Finally, Anagnos gives Annie a small gift, a ring.... (full context)
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...movable eyelids, which can make a “momma” sound. The doll, the children explain, is for Helen. Some of the younger children tell Annie that they don’t want her to leave. Annie... (full context)
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The lights dim, and when they go up, we’re back in the Keller household. Upstairs, Helen sits alone. Downstairs, Kate adjusts her bonnet, while a black servant named Viney attends to... (full context)
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...greets Arthur and tells him that she’s headed off to meet Annie. Alone, Arthur studies Helen, who has wandered out onto the porch. He says, “She’s gone, my son and I... (full context)
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...greets her and introduces himself. Annie replies, “I had a brother Jimmie.” James explains he’s Helen’s half-brother and adds, “You look like half a governess.” Annie greets Kate and observes that... (full context)
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...Kellers previously hired), and, finally, she herself was formerly blind. Annie will begin by teaching Helen language—and language, she explains, ‘is to the mind more than light is to the eye.” (full context)
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...and Kate are coming back to the house. Arthur Keller greets Annie politely, just as Helen Keller rushes through the room and out to the porch, chasing after the family dog,... (full context)
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Annie hesitates, and then follows Helen, “entering her world.” She crouches down and, gently, touches Helen’s hand. Helen feels Annie’s hand,... (full context)
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As Annie meets Helen, Arthur and Kate talk about Annie. Kate likes her, but Arthur finds her “rough,” remarking... (full context)
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Meanwhile, in her room, Annie gives Helen a key. Helen uses the key to open the suitcase. She finds a big shawl... (full context)
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Annie takes Helen’s hand and gently manipulates the fingers, spelling out “D-O-L-L” in sign language. James, who’s been... (full context)
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Alone with Helen, Annie produces a piece of cake from her suitcase, and holds it under Helen’s nose.... (full context)
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Annie shows Helen the doll again, prompting Helen to spell its name. Helen does so, and Annie gives... (full context)
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...“Buffalo girl, are you coming out tonight.” Annie turns to her mirror and realizes that Helen has knocked out one of her teeth. (full context)
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...Kate asks where Annie is, James replies, very pleasantly, “In her room.” He explains that Helen locked her in her room. Appalled, Kate finds Helen, sitting outside by the water pump.... (full context)
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Annie notices Helen sitting by the pump, oblivious to the chaos around her. The lights dim, and Annie... (full context)
Act 2
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...and Annie’s bedroom is the only room in the Keller house with the light on. Helen stands by Annie’s desk, playing with her doll. Annie is busy writing a letter, which... (full context)
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Helen knocks over Annie’s inkwell. Annie immediately takes the inkwell and saves her letter, mopping up... (full context)
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...passes by the doorway and sees what Annie is doing. Annie explains that she’s teaching Helen to spell—even though Helen doesn’t even know what a word is. Kate is skeptical that... (full context)
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Just then, Annie reaches for the sewing card. Helen takes the needle and pokes Annie’s finger with it. Just then, Kate gives Helen some... (full context)
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...dim and rise again, signaling that it’s morning. Viney comes outside to pump water. Inside, Helen is wandering around the table, Annie is studying Helen carefully, and Kate tries to eat... (full context)
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Arthur and Kate explain to Annie that Helen is “accustomed to helping herself from our plates.” Annie retorts, “but I’m not accustomed to... (full context)
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...asks Kate to come outside and talk with him. James leaves also, leaving Annie and Helen alone. While Annie and Helen struggle, Arthur tells Kate that he’s on the verge of... (full context)
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Meanwhile, Annie clears everyone’s plates off of the table except for Helen’s and her own. She guides Helen’s hands toward her plate. Helen grabs her plate and... (full context)
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Helen wanders toward Kate’s chair, touching it with her hand. Annie goes over to Helen and... (full context)
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Suddenly, Helen hesitates, then reaches her hands toward her own plate. She grabs food off her plate... (full context)
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...Aunt Ev complains that she’s been waiting outside the house all afternoon, and adds that Helen “is a Keller,” meaning that she’s a cousin to General Robert E. Lee. (full context)
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Just then, Helen and Annie emerge from the house. They both look exhausted. Triumphantly, Annie announces that Helen... (full context)
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...Kate argue about Annie, Arthur claiming that Annie can’t be much of a teacher if Helen runs away from her and fights with her. Quietly, Kate points out that even if... (full context)
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...she behaves politely. Annie replies that the situation is hopeless—she’ll never be able to teach Helen, so long as she’s allowed to run wild. This news startles Kate. Kate tells Annie... (full context)
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Annie tells the Kellers that Helen’s worst handicap isn’t deafness or blindness—it’s her own parents’ spoiling affection and pity. Annie will... (full context)
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Annie suggests that she and Helen live in the garden house, with Percy to help them at times. Arthur irritably consents... (full context)
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...that Annie doesn’t give up easily. Annie explains that she has one important “weapon” against Helen: Helen’s enormous curiosity. James suggests, “We all give up, don’t we?” Annie replies that giving... (full context)
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As James walks out, Kate and Arthur appear, leading Helen to the garden house. Kate explains that they’ve been driving through the country for two... (full context)
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The Kellers leave Annie and Helen alone, and Helen begins banging around the garden house. She finds her doll and is... (full context)
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Alone, Kate tells Arthur she’s proud of him for letting Annie have control over Helen. Arthur wonders aloud why James, his own son, can’t stand him. Gently, Kate suggests that... (full context)
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...Annie cries, “No pity, I won’t have it. On either of us.” She turns to Helen, who is “prone on the floor,” and touches Helen’s hand. Helen immediately recoils and crawls... (full context)
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Annie tells Percy to touch Helen’s hand. He does so, and Helen, delighted, emerges from under the bed. She embraces Percy... (full context)
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Alone, Annie sits in a rocking chair with Helen’s doll. Happy with herself, she begins singing a lullaby to the doll “in mock solicitude.”... (full context)
Act 3
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The stage is dark as Annie and Helen sit in bed in the garden house. Annie teaches Helen how to spell “water” and... (full context)
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...the house has been blissfully silent—a statement that infuriates Arthur. Annie continues to sit with Helen, spelling the word “water.” Arthur tells James that if he becomes a parent, he’ll know... (full context)
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...Annie, not wearing her smoked glasses, writes that she feels deeply “undisciplined” as she teaches Helen. She looks the word up in the dictionary and realizes she was spelling it incorrectly. (full context)
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...is doing. Annie quickly puts her glasses on again and explains, “Whatever I spell to Helen I’d better spell right.” Annie shows Kate that Helen has learned to eat with a... (full context)
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Just then, Arthur Keller enters the garden house. He explains that he’s brought Helen a “playmate,” a dog named Belle. Annie reminds him that her two weeks with Helen... (full context)
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Alone with Helen, Annie spells out “D-O-G” and then touches Helens hand to Belle. Then, she gets a... (full context)
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...tolls six, James, Viney, Percy, and Martha enter the garden house and remove Annie and Helen’s things, bringing them back to the house. James takes Annie’s suitcase, and studies Annie “without... (full context)
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Kate comes to the garden house. Annie, seeing Kate, touches Helen’s hand to Kate’s cheek and spells, “mother.” Kate, impatient, cries out, “let her come!” Repeating... (full context)
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...the garden house and gives Annie her first months’ salary. He thanks Annie for changing Helen from a “wild thing” into a child. But Annie protests that she wants to teach... (full context)
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Back in the house, Helen feels the front door and removes the key from the lock. She runs to Kate,... (full context)
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At the supper table, Helen throws her napkin to the floor. Annie puts the napkin back on Helen’s lap, and... (full context)
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Helen gleefully throws her fork to the floor. Wearily, James says, “I think we’ve started all... (full context)
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Outside, Annie leads Helen to the water pump, still holding the pitcher. She touches Helen’s hand to the handle... (full context)
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Helen seems suddenly excited. She touches the earth and then holds out her hand expectantly—Annie spells... (full context)
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Helen turns to Annie and grasps Annie’s thigh. Annie makes the sign for “teacher” and Helen... (full context)
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Annie takes Helen’s hand and spells out, “I love Helen … forever and ever.” The lights dim, “taking... (full context)