Movie Mirrors Index

The Miracle Worker

(1962 b 107')

En: 8 Ed: 9

Based on Helen Keller’s autobiography and the play by William Gibson and directed by Arthur Penn, southern parents with a blind and deaf daughter hire a young woman who knows the alphabet for the deaf to teach her.
      A doctor tells Captain Arthur Keller (Victor Jory) and Kate Keller (Inga Swenson) that their infant daughter will live. Arthur goes out with the doctor who says their infant shows vitality. Kate talks to the baby which cries. She notices that the child is not responding to anything she says. She snaps her fingers and calls her name “Helen” loudly and shrieks, calling the captain. He hears her outside and runs in and up the stairs. She is screaming, and he comes in and asks what is wrong. Kate says she can’t see. He waves the lantern back and forth. Then he slaps his hands and shouts her name and says she can’t hear either.
      Helen Keller (Patty Duke) plays in the backyard with sheets on the clothesline. Her mother comes out and holds her in her arms.
      Helen wanders in the country with her hands in front of her, and her mother follows her.
      A little black boy is ringing a bell because Helen is fighting with a black girl. Her mother comes outside and breaks up the fight and tells Helen to let her be. The black girl and boy run off. Helen walks into a bench, knocking it over.
      Inside Arthur is writing at his desk, and the elderly Aunt Ev (Kathleen Comegys) comes in and says something has to be done about the child. She says that there is the famous Perkins School in Boston. Helen comes into the room, and Ev hands her a doll. Arthur says Helen has been to specialists in Washington and Baltimore, but Kate says that he will write to the Perkins School. Arthur asks how many times will she let them break her heart. She says many times as long as there is a chance she can see or hear. Arthur says there is no chance. Kate says she will write to Perkins, but he says no. She says writing will do no harm. Arthur insists that they can’t help her. Helen pushes the things off his desk, and he moves her out of his way and picks up things with Kate. James Keller (Andrew Pine) suggests that his father have her put away in an asylum and believes it is the kindest thing. Kate says she is his sister, and he says she is half-sister and half mentally defective, and she cannot even keep herself clean. He says it is not pleasant seeing her around. Kate asks if he dares to complain about what he can see. Arthur says the discussion is ended because he wants some peace. He does not want to rush around to each new quack. Ev says Helen took some buttons. Kate takes the buttons and holds Helen’s hand to her eyes and tells the others that she wants the doll to have eyes. Kate says she will sew them on again. Helen feels them on the doll and smiles. Ev says the child has more sense than the male Kellers if they could reach her mind. Helen pushes over a cradle, and Arthur picks up the crying baby. Kate grabs Helen and shakes her and tells her not to do that. She asks how she can make her understand and hugs her. Arthur says a form of discipline must be found, but Kate asks how can they discipline an afflicted child. She asks if it is her fault, but he says he didn’t say that. Kate asks how she can teach her except by beating her. Arthur says there must be some way to confine her. Kate asks if he means a cage. She says she is a growing child and needs to use her limbs. Arthur says it is not fair to the baby, and Kate asks if he wants to put her away. Helen slaps Kate who says that she wants to talk like them. Helen falls on the floor and wails. Kate takes her in her arms and says every day she is slipping farther away. She does not know how to call her back. Aunt Ev says she would like to write to Boston because they might send someone who cares. Arthur tells Kate that he will write to Perkins.
      Annie Sullivan (Anne Bancroft) has dark glasses and rushes to get on a train. Mr. Anagnos is with her and tells her this is his last counsel for her. He says she lacks tact or flexibility to others. At Perkins she has been saved because they had no place to send her. She says he is making her ears hurt. The only place she could have gone was back to the dreadful place where she learned to be saucy. He says he knew she was unhappy there. She says God owes her a resurrection because this battle keeps coming up. He advises her to be humble because she will need their affection working with the child. He gives her a ring, and she puts it on her finger. She says she owes everything to him, but he says that is only half true. The train starts to move, and he wishes her luck, kisses her goodbye, and gets off the train. She shouts that she won’t give them any trouble and will act like a lady. She waves from the window to him and several blind girls.
      She sleeps on the train and gets off at Washington to change trains. She rides on the train day and night and remembers her childhood. A crippled boy begs her not to let them take him away from her when they separated boys and girls.
      Annie is standing on the back of the train as it stops at Tuscumbia. James is waiting and calls her name. He says he is James Keller, and she says she has a brother named James. He takes her hand and helps her off the train. He says she looks like only half a governess. He asks if she has a trunk, and she finds the ticket in her pursue and hands it to him. She picks up her suitcase, and he points out Mrs. Keller. He goes for the trunk while she walks from the platform to her carriage. Kate says they met every train for two days. Annie notices she did not bring Helen, and she hoped she would. She asks if she lives far from town. Kate says one mile, and Annie indicates she is eager to meet Helen.
      James drives the carriage to their home, and Arthur comes out to welcome her. Annie walks toward the house where Helen is standing on the steps. She puts her suitcase down hard, and Helen feels toward it until she touches it and then touches Annie’s hand. She brings her hand to her nose and smells it. She feels her arm and her face. She takes off her glasses and feels her hat. When Annie touches Helen’s face, Helen pulls away quickly. Helen puts the suitcase on her lap and slaps it twice and puts her hand in the air. Annie takes her hand, puts it on her own face, and nods her head. Helen stands up and carries the suitcase, not letting Annie take it from her. Annie opens the door, and they go in. Helen takes it up the stairs.
      Arthur tells Kate that she is rough. Kate says she likes her. He asks how old she is, and she says she is not in her teens. He asks why she wears those dark glasses, and Kate says that she was blind. She says she had nine operations on her eyes. He asks if they expect one blind child to teach another. He asks how long she taught there. She says she was a student. He asks if this is her first position, and Kate says she was valedictorian. He says they have a house full of grownups who cannot cope with this child and asks how a Yankee schoolgirl can do better. James says now they have two of them to look after. Arthur tells him to be quiet, and James complains that he was agreeing with him. Arthur leads the carriage away. James tells Kate that nothing he says is right, and she asks him why say anything.
      Inside Helen is wearing a sweater and Annie’s hat and glasses. She holds a mirror and puts it down. Annie takes off the sweater and helps her open the suitcase. Helen starts feeling the clothes. Annie takes the drawers away from her. Helen finds a doll and moves away from the suitcase. She feels its face which has eyelids that move. She feels how her own eyelids can close and open, and she smiles. Annie puts a hand on her head. Helen slaps the doll and then slaps her own chest. Annie takes her other hand and does the same thing with it. Then she puts her hand on her own face and nods. Helen hugs the doll happily. Annie says that they will begin with doll. She takes her left hand and lets her feel her own hand as she makes the signs for d and o. Helen uses both hands to feel her hand. Annie signs l twice and then puts her hand on the doll.
      James comes in and stands in the doorway and says she spells well. Annie takes her drawers and puts them in her suitcase and closes it. He says Helen is ticklish. He asks if it is a game, and Annie says it is an alphabet for the deaf as she spells doll again. Helen makes the sign for d, and Annie says she is bright. Tom asks if she thinks she knows what she is doing. He uses a finger to make a cross on her palm, and she does the same to him. He says she is a monkey and imitates everything. Annie says she is a bright monkey. She takes the doll from Helen who gets upset. Annie takes her hand to her own face and shakes her head for no, but Helen slaps her face. Annie makes her stand up and puts her in a chair. Tom says she wants her doll back, and Annie says when she can spell it. Annie is trying to get ahold of her hands, and Helen is fighting her. Tom says she does not like her alphabet and asks if she invented it herself. She says Spanish monks under a vow of silence invented it. She wishes he were quiet and pushes him out of the room and closes the door.
      Helen gets on the floor and takes an item of clothing that Annie takes from her. Annie gets some cake and puts it by Helen’s face. Then she spells “cake” with her hands while Helen feels what she is doing. Helen makes similar moves with her left hand, and Annie gives her the cake even though she realizes she does not know what it means. Annie touches the doll to Helen’s face and takes it away. Then she spells “doll” again. Helen spells d o l, and Annie gets her to make another l and gives her the doll. Helen takes the doll and uses it to whack Annie’s head, injuring her mouth. Annie goes to the mirror to look at her mouth and realizes that Helen has gone out and locked the door. Annie goes to the window and looks out where Arthur is walking.
      Helen goes down the stairs while in the room Annie realizes she had a tooth knocked out.
      At the dinner table Arthur asks where Annie is, and James says that Helen locked Annie in her room and took the key. Kate complains that he is sitting there and said nothing. He says people wanted him to be quiet. Arthur says Helen is out by the pump, and he goes up and knocks on the door. Annie says Helen took the key. He asks how she managed it in ten minutes. She sits down and says she is not on her own side. Arthur tells the black cook to put the meat back in the oven.
      Kate is next to Helen who is sitting at the well when Arthur comes out. Kate says she does not have the key. Arthur says she must have it and asks if she searched her. He sees James and a black man bringing a ladder and tells them to put it back. Kate is looking in the grass and says she could have hidden the key. Arthur calls Jimmy to bring the ladder. The black maid comes out with the crying baby. Arthur climbs the ladder and calls Miss Sullivan. She sees the ladder and comes out the window. He insists on carrying her down the ladder, though she says she is capable of climbing down a ladder by herself. He tells her to hold on to his neck. She says she will look for the key, and he tells her not to look in any rooms that can be locked. He sends away the black children and asks if they can have dinner now. James tells Annie he will leave the ladder there and goes in.
      Annie walks over to Helen at the well. She watches as Helen stands up and walks around and comes back to the well for her doll. Helen takes the key out of her mouth and drops it in the well. Annie asks if she thinks she can get rid of her that easily. Annie says she has nothing else to do and nowhere to go. She hears Arthur call her and runs into the house.
      Annie is writing a letter about how she is trying to discipline her without breaking her spirit, but Helen knocks over the bottle of ink. Annie gets a cloth to wipe the ink off of Helen’s hands, and she spells “ink.” She puts Helen on a stool and shows her how to sew with a needle by going down and up. Helen feels pain from the needle and reacts. Annie says she will try temperance. She takes the doll in Helen’s hands and squeezes it and puts it down. Then she spells “bad girl” and makes an angry face for Helen to feel. Helen imitates the face. Annie has the doll kiss Helen’s face and spells “good girl” and has her feel her smiling face. Helen smiles and feels her lips and teeth. She holds the doll to her face and stands up and puts the doll on a cabinet. Then Helen picks up the water pitcher and throws it on the floor, shattering it. On the floor Helen feels Annie’s frowning face and imitates it. Annie uses her hand on her face to tell her yes. She has Helen sit on the bed. Kate comes in with sheets and asks what they are doing. Annie says she was conversing to Helen that it was a sewing card. Kate asks if she understands. Annie says she will not understand spelling until she understands what a word means. Kate says that her husband believes it is like spelling to a fence-post. Annie says Kate does the same thing when she talks to her baby. They don’t understand one word at first. Eventually they begin to understand what they are hearing. Kate says other children are not impaired. Annie says her head is not impaired. Kate asks when will she learn, and Annie says maybe after a million words. She gives Kate a book on the question of words. Kate says that she would also like to learn those letters, and Annie says she will teach them to her in the morning. Kate says it is her bedtime. Annie touches Helen who stabs her with the needle. They struggle, and Helen goes to her mother who holds her as she struggles and then puts some cake in her mouth, calming her down. Annie asks why she gave her a reward for stabbing her. Kate says many times she cannot be compelled, and Annie says she is the same way. Kate says goodnight and takes Annie out. Annie picks up the doll and shakes it.
      At the dinner table Arthur and James are arguing about the Civil War and General Grant while Annie takes food from their plates. Annie watches Helen go to each plate and take food. When Helen is taking food from her plate, Annie pushes her away. They struggle, and Kate explains that she is accustomed to doing that. Annie says she is not accustomed to it, and Helen tries to slap her. Annie is holding Helen’s wrists, and Helen on the floor struggles less. Annie says she knows a tantrum and says she is a badly spoiled child. Arthur asks if she pities her; but Annie says she does not pity this tyrant but she pities them for feeling sorry for her instead of teaching her. Annie says she will begin teaching her if they will leave the room. Arthur says she is there only as a paid teacher. She says she can’t teach her if they won’t stand up to one tantrum. Arthur goes out, and Annie asks Kate to help her by leaving the room. James salutes Annie as he goes out.
      On the front porch Arthur tells Kate that unless she apologizes, she goes back on the next train. He tells Kate to make that clear while he goes to his office. Arthur leaves, and James tells Kate that what Annie said was very intelligent. He says he has been saying it for years, and she asks if he said it to his face. Kate hears banging.
      Inside Helen is on the floor on her back and is stamping her feet. Annie has cleared the other plates from the table and sits down to eat. Helen stops and pulls at the chair Annie is sitting in. Annie shows Helen with her hands that she is eating. Annie wants to eat too, but Annie puts her in another chair. Helen stands up, finds Annie, and pinches her arm. Annie pushes her away. Helen comes back, and Annie slaps her hand. Helen slaps Annie’s face, and Annie slaps her back. This is repeated, but then Helen stops and hugs herself. She feels the table and motions that she wants to eat. She pushes Annie away and finds the door and pounds on it. Many times Annie puts Helen in a chair, and she runs off. Annie keeps bringing her back as Helen uses different ways of escaping. When she calms down, Annie starts eating again. Helen reacts. Annie picks up the food from the floor and puts the plate by Helen’s nose when she is seated. Helen takes the plate and feeds herself with her hand until the crumbs left are gone. Annie takes the plate, and Helen pounds on the table. Annie puts food on the plate and brings it back. She puts a spoon in Helen’s hand and shows her how to take food and put it in her mouth. Helen uses her other hand to shove the food in. Annie takes the food from her mouth and throws it away. She again shows her how to use the spoon. On the third try Helen throws the spoon across the room. Annie with Helen retrieves the spoon, and they wrestle. Annie takes her back to the chair and puts the spoon in her hand again. Helen throws the spoon away. Annie tries to take Helen to get the spoon, but Helen holds on to the chair. Finally Annie picks her up with the chair and shakes it loose. Annie makes her get the spoon from the floor and puts her back in the chair during continued struggle. Helen throws the spoon away again, and Annie gets several spoons. Each time Helen throws the spoon away. With the last spoon Annie holds the spoon with Helen’s hand and shows her how to put food in her mouth. Helen spits the food in Annie’s face, and Annie takes the pitcher and throws the water in Helen’s face. Annie puts a spoonful of food in Helen’s mouth and then spells “good girl.” When Helen’s hand is on her head, she pulls Annie’s hair. They crawl on the floor.
      Outside on the porch Aunt Ev asks Kate how long she is going to let this go on. Ev decides to leave. The maid takes the baby from Kate and agrees that she is the angel of the family. Annie comes out with Helen. Kate welcomes her, and Helen hugs her mother. Kate asks what happened, and Annie says she ate from her own plate herself, and she folded her napkin, though the room is a wreck. Annie says she will be in her room, and the maid tells her that dinner is almost ready. Kate holds Helen and marvels that she folded her napkin.
      Annie sits down in the dinning room and picks up the folded napkin amid the mess. She remembers what she went through when children threw tantrums. She recalls her determination to go to school when she grew up. She looks in the book and reads about how important it is to rescue a woman’s soul. She remembers saying she wanted to go to school. She reads how the soul is more important than the body.
      Annie goes out and looks in the barn. She looks around and finds an unused cottage.
      Arthur asks Kate who is to pay for the broken dishes. He complains that Annie is incompetent and immodest; but she tells him that Helen folded her napkin; so Annie has not been ineffectual. He says he wants her to give her notice, but she says she can’t. He says if she won’t, then he must.
      Annie comes out of her room. Helen touches her face and runs to the maid. Annie goes down stairs and knocks on the door. Arthur opens the door, and she says they should have a talk. He agrees and says he is not satisfied. She asks if the house in back is used, and he says in the hunting season. He asks for her attention. He says he has tried to make allowances for her because she is from the north. He says it is hard to talk through her glasses, and she removes them. He asks why she wears them at night, and she says any kind of light hurts her eyes. He tells her to put them on and says he will give her another chance. He says there are two conditions. He does not like rudeness, and there must be a change in manners. She asks in who’s, and he says in hers. He asks how she can teach the child who flees from her to anyone else she can find. Annie agrees it is hopeless in this house. Kate says she does not agree because she learns. She says Helen began talking when she was only six months old. She says she knew that wah-wah meant water. She never saw a child so bright. She asks if it is still in her somewhere. She asks Annie to put up with her and them. She loves her like the lost lamb in the parable. Annie says she believes that Helen’s worst handicap is not deafness and blindness but their love and pity. They have kept her like a pet, but even a dog gets housebroken. Annie says it is useless trying to teach her language there. Kate says they had been thinking of putting her in an asylum. She visited one, and people were treated like animals. She asks what else they can do if she gives up. Annie says she has only begun. She wants complete charge of her. Arthur says she has that, but she says day and night; she must depend on her for everything. Kate says she runs from her to them, and Annie says that is the point. She must go with her somewhere else, and then she can’t be rude to them either. He asks what happens if he says no. She says she grew up in an asylum. She says she and her brother played with the rats because they didn’t have toys. She describes a ward of women with various illnesses, mental and behavioral problems. Girls had babies, and they played with the babies with diseases. They even played in the room with the dead bodies. Annie says it made her strong; but they don’t need to send Helen there because she is strong enough. Kate asks where she would take Helen. Annie asks for Italy but says she will accept their little house. They can take her there after a long ride so that she will not know she is near the house. They can see her every day as long as she doesn’t know. Kate asks if that is all, and she asks for her husband’s permission. While he is thinking, Annie suggests they could let Percy sleep there so that he could run errands. Arthur sees how much Kate wants this, and he consents to two weeks to see what she can do. Annie says that she will get her to tolerate her in that time, and he goes out. She teaches Kate the letter a.
      Annie watches from the porch as Arthur and Kate take Helen away in the carriage. At night they bring her to the cabin. They come in, and Annie asks if she knows where she is. Arthur says she could think she is in another town. Kate tells her to be good to her, and she goes out. Helen begins by throwing a tantrum, and Arthur and Kate hear this as they drive off. After a while Helen sobs and lies on the floor. They both fall asleep.
      Annie has a dream that Helen goes through a door. Annie wakes up and calls Jimmy. He opens the window and asks if everything is all right. He asks how old the other Jimmy was, and Annie says he was Helen’s age. He asks how he died. She says he had a tubercular hip and was on a crutch. She says he died eleven years ago, and he asks if she has dreamed about anyone else since. She says one was enough. He says she does not let go of things easily. He says she would be good-looking if not for her eyes. She says everyone tells her that. She says he would be a gentleman if not for his manners. He laughs and asks how she will win her over in this place. Annie says she lost her temper. Helen is asleep on the bed. Annie says Helen wants to learn everything. He says maybe Helen will teach her, and Annie agrees; but then he says she may teach her that there is dullness of heart and acceptance and letting go. He says sooner or later we all give up, but for her that is original sin. He asks her to have pity on her for what she is. Annie says if others did that, she would be dead. He asks if he will teach her, and she closes the window.
      Annie says to herself that she will not pity either Helen or herself. She touches Helen, and she wakes up and sits up suddenly. Annie says she will touch her. She asks how and calls Percy to wake up and come in. She asks him to play a game with Helen and has him touch her hand. Helen finds out who it is and sits on the floor with him. Annie says she can talk if she makes letters. Annie teaches Percy, and Helen feels what is going on and spells cake for Percy. Annie gets some cake for her, but Helen avoids her. Annie teaches Percy how to spell. Helen puts her hand on theirs and pushes Percy away. Helen reaches out her hand, and Annie teaches her how to spell milk. Annie is glad that she can touch her and gives her the glass of milk to drink. Annie tells Percy he can go back to bed now. He goes out. Annie hands the doll to Helen who stands up and goes back to the big bed to sleep. Annie says she has to teach her one word. Annie sits in the chair, holds the doll like a baby, and sings, “Hush, Little Baby.”
      Annie puts a sock on Helen’s foot and a dress over her head.
      Helen is dressed and has her doll. She stands up and gropes around.
      Arthur taps on the window, and Annie opens it and says Helen is tolerating her, and she is tolerating Helen. He sees Helen on the floor and asks what is wrong. Annie says she is teaching her how to dress herself. He asks if the tray of food is her breakfast and wonders why she has not eaten it yet. Annie says she has to dress herself first. He asks if she is going to starve her into obeying; but she says she will not starve, and she will learn. She says it is a siege. He asks if she likes the child, and she asks if he does. She says she is beginning to like her.
      By a fire Annie shows Helen beads. Outside she shows her a tree. Annie shows her water in a basin and in a creek. They both sit in the creek, and Annie spells “water.”
      In the cabin Annie has her exercise her arms. They walk outside.
      Inside Annie looks for “discipline” in a dictionary, and she makes notes. Kate comes to the open window with a tray of food. Annie puts it on a table for Helen who sits in a chair and uses a napkin. Annie tells Kate that words are still only a finger game to her. Kate asks if she can take her for a walk. Annie suggests they play their finger game. Kate says next week seems very far off, and Annie tells her to spell it. She says when she learns, they will have a lot to tell each other. She suggests she start now.
      Annie is teaching Helen how to crochet, but she does not know how to spell it. So she spells “sewing.” Annie shows her an egg and spells it. A chick comes out of the shell, and Helen feels it. Annie tells Helen to come out too. Helen pets the chick.
      Helen feels Annie’s hands and finds a thimble in her mouth. Annie spells it. Annie spells words for Helen. At night she sees Helen moving her fingers while she is asleep. Annie says she needs help too. She asks how she can reach her.
      At the windows Kate and Arthur talk to Annie while Helen is petting a dog. Kate asks if she needs affection too, and Annie says she never shows her that she wants it. Arthur asks what another week will accomplish. He says they are satisfied with the progress because she has made her more manageable and cleaner. Annie does not agree that cleanliness is next to Godliness. She asks for more time with her. Arthur asks what Helen is spelling for the dog, and Kate says water. He says the dog does not know what she means anymore than she knows what Annie means. He thinks she is asking too much of her. He says God may not have meant for her to have eyes, but she says she means her to have them. He asks what it is to her. She asks for half a week, and he says they had an agreement. She appeals to Kate who says she wants her back. Annie says she has her until six, and they leave. Annie asks if Helen will be satisfied if she gives her and the dog back to them housebroken. The dog moves away, and Helen gropes. Annie goes to her and says she wanted to teach her. She says everything they think and feel is in words. With one word she can put the world in her hand. She wonders how she can tell her that the words mean the objects. She spells face and touches her hand to her face. She spells “mother,” and Kate says to let her come. Annie walks out the door and touches her mother’s face. Kate picks her up, and Helen is happy. Kate carries her through the woods. Annie picks up her beat-up purse and pours water on her eyes.
      On the front porch Helen is playing with a toy.
      Arthur comes into Annie’s room and hands her a check for her first month’s salary, hoping that it will be the first of many. She says she only taught her one thing—no, not to do this or that. She says obedience without understanding is a blindness too. She does not know what else to do. She says that she can keep on doing what she has been, but inside her waiting is something like water underground. She asks him to help, and he asks how. She says the world is a difficult place. She says to let her have her way in everything is a lie to her. She does not even love her because she is not her child. She says he has to stand between that lie and her, and he agrees. He asks her to come to supper. She says she used to wonder how she would earn a living. He says she does, and she agrees with him. She asks if she can survive it.
      In the dining room Helen goes to the doors and gets a key. Aunt En and Kate come in, and Helen gives the key to her mother. Arthur holds the chair for Annie as does James for Ev. James says grace and quotes the scripture about Jacob wrestling with the angel until it blessed him. Then he calls Annie an angel. Ev says that was a strange grace. Annie looks at Helen who is sitting quietly. While they are talking, Helen drops her napkin on the floor. Annie gets up, picks it up, and puts it back on Helen. She drops it again, and Annie picks up her plate and takes food out of her mouth. Helen starts pounding on the table. Helen frees herself from Annie and takes refuge by clinging to her mother who tells Annie this is a special day. Annie says it will be when she gives in to that. She appeals to Arthur who says they had a talk about not indulging the child. Annie says what she has taught her is breakable, and she asks Kate not to play tug of war with her for Helen. Annie asks if she can take her from the table. Ev says she is only a child, and Annie tells outsiders not to interfere. Kate says she made all her favorite foods, and Arthur says it is her homecoming. Annie says Helen is testing them, and James says she is testing Annie. Arthur tells Jimmy to be quiet. Annie says Helen wants to see what will happen at his hands. Helen is clinging to her mother, and Arthur says she is not kicking now. Annie says she is not learning not to. She says she will live up to the standards they set and no more. James repeats that she is testing Annie who agrees that she is. She begs them to let her continue to teach her. If they take her out of her hands, it all comes apart. She says they may be bountiful, but it is at her expense. She asks them to pass her more of her favorite foods. Kate gives her back to Annie, and Helen goes wild again. Arthur takes Helen from her and says he will keep her to what she taught her. He says they don’t need to take her from the table. He has Helen sit down and tells her to bring her plate back. Annie says if she could see, they would never tolerate her behavior. He says she does not and that some compromise is needed. He asks her to bring her plate. He says sometimes another hand is needed. He gives her the spoon and walks away. Helen jumps up immediately, and Annie grabs her. Helen bites her hand and throws water from a pitcher at her. Annie says she will treat her as a seeing person. She takes her out of the room and says she will make her fill the pitcher again. Ev asks Arthur if he will let his employee speak to him like that. He says no and goes after her; but James closes the door and tells him to let her go because she is right. He says Kate and he are right, and he is wrong.
      Outside Annie takes Helen to the well and pumps the water while spelling the word in Helen’s right hand while her left hand feels the water pouring out. Suddenly Helen throws away the pitcher and puts both hands under the water. She remembers the word and says “Waa.” She taps the faucet, and Annie pumps more water. She takes Helen’s hand to her face and nods yes. Helen pumps water and then spells the word for Annie. Helen pounds on the dirt, and Annie spells “ground” and nods yes. She spells pump, tree, step, and bell. Annie calls to Mrs. Keller, and she comes running out with Arthur, followed by Ev and James. She spells papa as she touches her father, and Annie says, “She knows!” Arthur and Kate hug her and each other. Helen gropes to Annie and points her finger at her. Annie spells “teacher” and nods yes. Helen goes back and embraces her mother, patting her. Kate takes out the key, and Helen spells teacher for her. Helen goes back to Annie and gives her the key and touches her face. Arthur comes to Helen and picks her up and carries her into the house.
      At night Helen comes into Annie’s room and sits on her lap and kisses her cheek. They embrace, and Annie spells, “I love Helen.”
      This drama based on a true story shows how a skilled and determined teacher can reach the mind of a person with severe physical handicaps. Once the mental conception is initiated, then people can learn unlimited amounts. Yet as important as the mental learning is the emotional understanding that has to be carefully nurtured with intelligent discipline and appropriate conditioning. Too much pity and spoiling the child can be counter-productive to the development of emotional maturity.

Copyright © 2012 by Sanderson Beck

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