The Difficult Childhood of Helen Keller
Maria Reyes Diaz
Helen Adams Keller was born into a wealthy family on the summer of June 27, 1880, in Tuscumbia Alabama. Helen was a very intelligent girl who was interested in everything around her; at least she was able to enjoy the beauty of nature through vision and the beauty of speech and hearing for the first few months of her life. Helen's life dramatically changed when she was struck by acute congestion of the stomach and brain, similar to meningitis. This illness caused a severe fever that left Helen paralyzed of her vision, speech and hearing, at only 19 months of age- Helen had become deaf, blind, and mute for the rest of her life. "When Helen Keller was made blind and deaf through fever at the age of nineteen months, the prospects for her seemed anything but rosy."# In analyzing Helen Adam Keller's relationship with the people surrounding her, learning about the world she lived in and her relationship with her teacher afterwards, it will be proven that Helen Keller's childhood was more complicated than what any of us would imagine.
In regards to Helen Keller's relationship with the people surrounding her, such as family, children and teacher, her childhood was very difficult. The main problem with Helen's relationship with her family and kids her age was misunderstanding. Neither her parents nor other children understood her. The Keller's would not discipline her, they would rather keep her spoiled than to tolerate her rowdiness. Her parents felt pity for her, therefore she could not express herself, hear or see so they tolerated all her tantrums. The children also did not understand her; they were petrified of her. Helen would hit them when she wanted something. The children did not understand her when she asked for something in sign language and since she also did not understand why they did not comprehend her, she got frustrated to the point that she would beat them.
Helen had learned to communicate many of her wishes with various
signs-there were some 60 gestures she had invented to ask for things
or identify people. But she was otherwise frustrated in her attempts to
communicate and her frustration led to behavior problems. She would
kick and fuss and demand her own way, even though there was a lovable
streak in the child.#
For that reason, children did not like socializing with her. Anne Sullivan, on the other hand, had no pity on Helen. Since her parents did not discipline Helen, Anne disciplined her. Anne considered Helen equal to everyone else, she believed that there was no need to treat her differently or treat her with more affection. Anne did not have pity on her because she was partially blind and knew that if they treated her without discipline, nothing good would come out of it. Anne Sullivan's struggle was a very difficult one also. Helen had never been disciplined and now all of a sudden a stranger started showing obedience to her. Helen disliked Sullivan for her strict attitude. This complicated Anne Sullivan's problem; teaching her was very difficult. Helen would always be following her mother for protection, she was scared of Anne Sullivan for she was very strict, and she did not satisfy Helen with everything that she wanted, unlike her mother. Helen Keller's relationship with people was intricate for the fact that she was blind, mute and deaf.
Helen Keller's life was all based on obstacles; obstacles that she eventually overcame. Educating Helen was very complicated. At the age of six, Helen's parents hired a teacher for their child-- Anne Sullivan, known as "The Miracle worker." Anne Sullivan was the teacher who was capable of teaching Helen that everything in the world had a name. This was a great obstacle for Anne. Teaching a blind, mute, and deaf child with no discipline was harder than what she imagined. How to explain to her what each hand movement was and how to tell her that each hand movement was a letter that spelled a word that equaled the object she touched. Anne Sullivan taught Helen sign language, which at first she considered "the hand game." Anne would spell a word in sign language and Helen felt her hand so she could imitate the position and she then touched the object she was spelling. The word that made her realize that everything had a name, was, "water." This happened one day when they were at the well getting water and Helen then started spelling the word water. Helen struggled to say the word but all that came out was "wah-wah," the word that she once tried saying when she was a baby before her loss.
Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something
forgotten--a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery
of language was revealed to me. I knew then that "w-a-t-e-r"
meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand.
That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set
Independence and obedience is something else Helen learned. Sullivan taught Helen how to eat and to not go around the table picking food out of people's plate, she then learned how to fold her napkin and how to dress herself. "I learned to fold and put away the clean clothes when they were brought in from the laundry, and I distinguished my own from the rest#." Teaching her these things was difficult, they would spend many hours alone fighting with each other because Helen did not want to listen and Anne was determined in teaching her. Even though Helen was blind, deaf, mute, and disobedient, Anne Sullivan was able to teach her how to connect hand movements to objects, learn to be independent and obedience.
Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan's relationship at first was not so great for Sullivan was very strict and Helen was always talked to in an affectionate way. Learning the word water made Helen feel really happy and all thanks to Anne Sullivan. "She did not accept her teacher's authority and continued with her wild ravings#." Helen was so grateful that she became really close to Anne. The word water opened up the world to her, which also made her realize that Anne was her teacher and all she wanted was the best for her. She had shown her concern by being optimistic and perseverant, she kept trying and was determined to make Helen understand. Helen now understood that all that fighting, no pity and strict attitude was all to make her comprehend that everything in the world had a name.
Helen got up this morning like a radiant fairy. She was flitted from
object to object, asking the name of everything and kissing me for
gladness. Last night when I got into bed, she stole into my
arms of her own accord and kissed me for the first time and I
thought my heart would burst, so full was it of joy.#
This was something Helen would never forget and that she would be forever grateful, for opening up the whole world to her.
In conclusion, in looking at Helen's relationship with people, learning about the world she lived in and her relationship with her teacher afterwards, it has been evident that Helen's childhood was very difficult. Being blind, mute and deaf did not help her in any way, but she was able to overcome darkness, deafness and speech, which were all obstacles for her. She could not hear, so it made it hard for her to understand what each letter was in sign language because she couldn't see and she could also not talk so she couldn't express herself. Helen Keller was a very strong person for being able to fight her obstacles and going on with her life, meeting her goals, regardless of her condition.
Keller, Helen. The Story Of My Life. Messrs. Houghton, Mifflin and Company, Cambridge Massachusetts,1903.