The Miracle Worker


William Gibson

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The Miracle Worker Themes

Themes and Colors
Communication Theme Icon
Learning and Teaching Theme Icon
Pity vs. Tough Love Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Miracle Worker, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.


The central theme of The Miracle Worker is communication. William Gibson’s play is based on the true story of Annie Sullivan, a young woman from Massachusetts who in the 1880s succeeded in teaching Helen Keller, a young deaf-blind girl from Alabama, how to communicate through sign language. Thanks to Sullivan, Keller went on to become the first deaf-blind person to earn a B.A. degree, and later became a prominent author and political…

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Learning and Teaching

When Annie Sullivan meets Helen Keller for the first time, they don’t get along. Helen behaves wildly and shows no respect for Annie, since no one has been able to teach her how to behave herself. By the end of the play, however, Helen has learned how to treat Annie with respect and, furthermore, to use language as a tool for educating herself about the world at large. Helen had teachers before Annie, but none…

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Pity vs. Tough Love

Throughout the play, Gibson contrasts the methods Annie Sullivan uses to teach Helen Keller with the methods that Helen’s own parents use. Helen’s parents’ approach can be summed up in one word: pity. Where Annie is rigorous in her efforts to educate Helen, Helen’s parents, Arthur Keller and Kate Keller, choose to baby her, giving her candy to pacify her and refusing to punish her when she misbehaves. While Arthur and Kate’s methods might…

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Another important theme of The Miracle Worker is family. The play is set almost entirely within the Keller household, and closely studies the complexities of the relationships between the various family members: Arthur Keller, the family patriarch; Kate Keller, his second wife; James Keller, Arthur’s son from a previous marriage; and Helen Keller, Arthur and Kate’s child.

If the play’s view of family relationships had to be summed up in one…

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