The Miracle Worker

by

William Gibson

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Water Symbol Icon

Water is the most overt symbol in The Miracle Worker. It’s the cornerstone of the play’s most famous scene (and one of the most famous scenes in American theater), in which Annie Sullivan pumps water on Helen Keller’s hands in order to teach her how to communicate via sign language. This scene—and water as it functions in the play more generally—has a strong religious undertone. In Christianity, water is a symbol of life and beginnings (think of a baptism, for instance). It’s apt that water is what inspires Helen Keller to finally understand how to communicate with the external world because in doing so it’s as if she has been born anew, baptized in the waters of truth and knowledge. In this way, water symbolizes the miracle of Helen’s rebirth.

Water Quotes in The Miracle Worker

The The Miracle Worker quotes below all refer to the symbol of Water. 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 3 Quotes

HELEN: Wah. Wah.

Related Characters: Helen Keller (speaker)
Related Symbols: Water
Page Number: 108
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Miracle Worker LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Miracle Worker PDF

Water Symbol Timeline in The Miracle Worker

The timeline below shows where the symbol Water appears in The Miracle Worker. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Family Theme Icon
Five years pass. Helen, now a little girl, sits outside by a water pump, next to a dog and two black children named Martha and Percy, who are... (full context)
Communication Theme Icon
Learning and Teaching Theme Icon
Pity vs. Tough Love Theme Icon
...that Helen locked her in her room. Appalled, Kate finds Helen, sitting outside by the water pump. She finds that Helen has no key. While James cheerfully finds a ladder and... (full context)
Act 2
Learning and Teaching Theme Icon
Pity vs. Tough Love Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
The lights 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... (full context)
Communication Theme Icon
Learning and Teaching Theme Icon
Pity vs. Tough Love Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...even began talking when she was only six months old—one of her first words was “water.” (full context)
Act 3
Communication Theme Icon
Learning and Teaching Theme Icon
Pity vs. Tough Love Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...and Helen sit in bed in the garden house. Annie teaches Helen how to spell “water” and “egg.” She mutters to herself that she needs to find a way to teach... (full context)
Family Theme Icon
...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 what “separation” means—and one... (full context)
Communication Theme Icon
Learning and Teaching Theme Icon
Pity vs. Tough Love Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...out “D-O-G” and then touches Helens hand to Belle. Then, she gets a tumbler of water and thrusts Helen’s hand into it. Helen removes her hand and wipes it on the... (full context)
Pity vs. Tough Love Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...takes the keys back from her. James walks into the house while, outside, Viney pumps water from the water pump. At supper, James says grace, quoting from the Biblical story of... (full context)
Communication Theme Icon
Pity vs. Tough Love Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...floor. Wearily, James says, “I think we’ve started all over.” Helen finds a pitcher of water and swings it in Annie’s direction, getting water all over Annie’s dress. Annie stands up... (full context)
Communication Theme Icon
Learning and Teaching Theme Icon
Pity vs. Tough Love Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Outside, Annie leads Helen to the water pump, still holding the pitcher. She touches Helen’s hand to the handle of the pump.... (full context)