Perhaps, one of the most famous works on the subject of disability and the means of people with disadvantages to feel a part of the society, The Miracle Worker handles the issue in a rather delicate and insightful manner, promoting the concept of empathy and cooperation as the primary tool for helping people with disadvantages to become a member of the community.
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Gibson’s focus on the interactions between the main characters, i.e., Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan, makes a very strong statement about the significance of refusing to underrate the abilities of people with challenges, be the latter physical or mental. By describing the key communication scenes between Helen and Anne Sullivan, the author makes the novel run the gamut from bittersweet feeling of compassion and empathy to the inspiring realization of how the lives of people with disadvantages can be improved.
The author represents the subject matter from a rather unusual perspective. Instead of focusing on the process of tending to the needs of the girl from a one-sided perspective, as the framework adopted at the time suggested, Gibson portrays the interactions between Helen and her mentor, therefore, placing the lead character in the context of the society.
It is quite remarkable that Gibson does not shy away from the realities of the era, stressing the effect that the lack of awareness on the subject of disability has had on Helen. More importantly, Gibson sheds some light on the gender issue as well, incorporating it into the description and, therefore, making the cry for compassion and the focus on the unique needs of the disabled people even more prominent. Although the gender relationships, which are also viewed as conflicting and requiring resolution, might seem somewhat unrelated to the issue, they, in fact, shape the attitude toward Helen: “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 at on one occasion you might be consummately wrong?” (Gibson 107). As a result, the gender-related concerns add to the depth of the narration, making the reader experience the trials and tribulations of the lead character.
The idea that the author promotes in his narration is also quite clear. Creating the environment, in which Helen’s development of the necessary language skills can be viewed as a true miracle, Gibson points to the fact that, though creating a significant obstacle in the process of communication between people, physical impairments can be addressed when meeting the needs of the disabled people. Though the latter used to be viewed as the lost case, the author makes it quite obvious that the focus on providing patient-centered care and building a strong link between the provider of care and the patient are the tools that will inevitably lead to a faster acquisition of skills and knowledge.
In other words, Gibson insists that the foundational principles of equality should be used when treating the disabled people. In this respect, Helen Keller’s teacher, Annie, can be considered a role model for the people around to follow, as she never gives up and refuses to assume that Helen has no basic abilities of learning the essentials of the language. Teaching Helen to speak, Anne also helps her build the experience of interacting with the rest of the world and, thus, sends a very powerful message concerning the importance of focusing on what the learner can do aside from what they are limited in: “’But if I write what my soul thinks,’ she said, ‘then it will be visible, and the words will be its body’” (Gibson ix).
Therefore, the message created by Gibson leaves a very powerful mark on the reader. Stressing the significance of compassion, cooperation, and the focus on the patient’s needs, it serves as one of the first statements regarding the gravity of addressing the unique characteristic of the patient. More importantly, the message busts the myth concerning the inability of the disabled to acquire any basic skills and, instead, points to the limitations in the approaches. Representing the disabled as thinking people with emotions, aspirations, and unique ideas, the author introduces a revolutionary idea to the members of the society of the epoch, therefore, suggesting a set of entirely different values based on the importance of interpersonal communication, cooperation, and empathy.
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By zooming the narration to the descriptions of interactions between Helen and Anne Sullivan, Gibson manages to get the idea of communication and empathy as the primary tools for encouraging the disabled to become a part of the society. Therefore, the novel can be viewed as groundbreaking in its endeavor at understanding the needs of the disabled people, as well as pushing the envelope in defining the very concept of disability. Gibson makes the statement that could be seen as rather bold at the time by focusing on communication and compassion as the basis for addressing the needs of the disadvantaged. The author, therefore, compels the audience to accept the idea of caring, cooperation, and acknowledgement of the patient’s individuality as the foundational principles that the framework of healthcare and teaching should be build on.
Gibson, William. The Miracle Worker. New York, NY: Simon and Shuster, 2008. Print.