by: Helen Keller
Helen Keller overcame different difficult obstacles of deafness and blindness to become an influential lecturer and social activist. She has become, in American culture, an icon of perseverance, respected and honored by readers, historians, and activists.
Helen began working on The Story of My Life while she was a student at Radcliffe College, and it was first published in installments in Ladies’ Home Journal. Helping her was an editor and Harvard professor named John Albert Macy, who later married her first teacher and lifelong companion, Anne Sullivan.
In the book Helen recounts the first twenty-two years of her life, from the events of the illness in her early childhood that left her blind and deaf through her second year at Radcliffe College. Prominent historical figures wander among the pages of The Story of My Life: She meets Alexander Graham Bell when she is only six and remains friends with him for years; she visits the acclaimed American poet John Greenleaf Whittier; and she exchanges correspondence with people like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Mrs. Grover Cleveland. II. CONTENT
A. Bibliographic Details of the Book
The Story of My Life
A Bantam Book
Signet edition published October 1988
Bantam Classic edition / June 1990
Bantam reissue / November 2005
A Division of Random House, Inc.
New York, New York
All Rights Reserved
B. Structure of the Book (Summary)
After providing brief descriptions of her home in Alabama and her family members, Helen explains how she became disabled and that’s because a fever she had when she was only nineteen months old left her blind and deaf and her first memories of being disabled, telling her early attempts to communicate. She reviews her parents’ efforts to find her medical treatment and educational assistance, as well as her early experiences with her first teacher, Anne Sullivan.
Next is the illness that left her blind and deaf, she got used to the darkness and the silence but retained the memories of the sights and sounds she had enjoyed before her illness. She made a simple system of gestures and tried so hard to make herself understood by her family. Most of the time, she had difficulty in communicating with her family, and she felt she had to develop to fix of the temper and frustration because the few signs she used to express herself were limited.
Helen’s parents were hopeful when they read a newspaper about Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, who had taught a deaf-blind girl named Laura Bridgman. They were also hopeful about a possible eye surgery, but the eye doctor could only refer them to Dr. Alexander Graham Bell, who knew about schools and teachers for children like Helen. Dr. Bell advised her parents to contact the Perkins Institution in Boston. Soon before her seventh birthday, Anne Sullivan arrived to teach her. Anne began teaching Helen the manual alphabet, and Helen learned it very quickly. She was surprised to realize that there are words to describe every object and idea.
Helen records her first years of educational development, speaking of Anne’s instructional methods, as well as her respond to Anne’s manner of teaching and developing techniques.
She developed from learning the alphabet to learning words, and then to learning texts by authors such as William Shakespeare. She notes that the more she learned, the more questions she had. She began to learn to read when Anne placed pieces of paper with raised letters on objects to name them. For example, Anne would spell out ‘‘dress’’ in raised letters and pin the word to a dress.
She loved learning because Anne often took her outdoors. The subject she hates most was arithmetic, so she finished her lessons and immediately went to play than staying and asking questions as she normally did. Still, she did her best to grasp the ideas Anne struggled to...