A Summary of "The Miracle Worker" About Helen Keller

by Belinda Tucker
Abigail Breslin and Alison Phil portrayed Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan in the 2010 Broadway revival of

Abigail Breslin and Alison Phil portrayed Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan in the 2010 Broadway revival of "The Miracle Worker."

Jemal Countess/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Helen Keller's story celebrates the triumph of will against unimaginable adversity, the stuff of all great drama and literature. Originally written for television by William Gibson, and later adapted for Broadway and then made into a film, "The Miracle Worker" tells Helen Keller's remarkable story as a blind and deaf child who learns to read and write. Hired to "civilize" Helen, Annie Sullivan embarks on a difficult journey to teach her new student to communicate.

Helen Keller

Having lost her hearing and sight from scarlet fever, young Helen Keller rages out of control. Helen screams and throws temper tantrums, biting people and eating food off of everyone's plates. She is frustrated, defiant and lost in a dark world she does not understand. As a last resort, the family calls in a young teacher, Annie Sullivan, with the hope she can teach Helen some basic skills. Upon her arrival at the Keller home, Annie soon learns that taming Helen won't be easy. Helen greets her new teacher by locking Annie in the bedroom and taking the key.

Family Dynamics

Annie has her hands full dealing with the challenging dynamic presented by the Keller family. Kate, Helen's mother, is an overly protective mother who unintentionally makes it difficult for Annie to assert her authority over Helen to gain the respect and attention needed to teach the young girl. Captain Keller, accustomed to being the head of the household, threatens to fire Annie after a particularly disturbing test of wills between Annie and Helen at the dinner table, where Annie forces the willful child to sit and eat at the table with her fork.

Annie Sullivan's Challenge

Annie Sullivan's challenges are many as she struggles to teach Helen Keller to communicate. Not only does Annie have to convince Helen's parents to grant her time alone with Helen in the Garden House, she also battles her own demons over the death of her brother years earlier in an orphanage. Annie yearns for answers about how to teach her deaf and blind pupil and feels terribly inadequate. To add to Annie's already tough situation, Helen tries Annie's patience daily with a fierce, stubborn streak of her own, testing her teacher's resolve at every step. In a fearless show of persistence, Annie ultimately gains the trust of Helen's parents and is able to finally teach Helen about language and communication.

The Miracle (Spoilers)

A few weeks pass and the bond grows between Annie and Helen. About a month after Annie arrives, the miracle finally happens. Annie takes Helen to the water pump and runs water across her hand, spelling the word, "water" into Helen's palm. For the first time, Helen understands. After that first word, Helen demands to know the spelling of everything she touches in her path. Hungry for words, Helen insists that Annie fingerspell every word into her hand as she walks around the yard touching different objects. In a particularly sentimental scene at the end, Helen spells the words "mother" and "papa" into her parents' palms.


  • "The Miracle Worker"; William Gibson; 2008

About the Author

Belinda Tucker has been a professional writer since 1983. She has published articles in "Surviving Career Transitions," Healthy by Choice," Eleanor's Eyes" and "Congestive Heart Failure." Tucker holds a Bachelor of Science in industrial management from Georgia Institute of Technology.

Photo Credits

  • Jemal Countess/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images