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From The Story of My Life by Helen Keller, comment on how the word "water" extends the...

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shauntait1234 | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 24, 2013 at 8:55 AM via web

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From The Story of My Life by Helen Keller, comment on how the word "water" extends the concept first introduced at the beginning of the book and extended through her explanations of her educational progress culminating in the writing of this autobiography.

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 24, 2013 at 9:47 AM (Answer #1)

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Helen Keller is aware of the difficulty of writing an autobiography and "lifting the veil that clings about my childhood like a golden mist."(Ch 1) She is acutely aware that she may over dramatize or actually under-exaggerate some of the occurrences that shape her life in The Story of My Life. Helen therefore sets out to explain, as honestly as possible, how her life has developed, including, where necessary the less than favourable events.

Once Helen’s Ann Sullivan – “who is to set my spirit free” (Ch 1)- arrives  Helen, despite the “barriers” goes from strength to strength. The word “w-a-t-e-r” which Helen recognizes as “the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand” comes to represent all that is possible for her and Helen feels something in her “soul”  as  the very word brings  “light, hope, joy!”(Ch 4). The “strange, new sight” that the revelation of words has exposed Helen to brings other emotions as she recalls the doll she broke earlier and “I felt repentance and sorrow." The word water begins the learning cycle for many words that Helen now learns and which “make the world blossom for me” and for the first time, Helen cannot wait for the next day so that she can learn more. Helen’s world goes from a “dayless” existence to a “sense of kinship with the rest of the world.”

This inspiration and the feeling that she is not SO different will set the tone for all Helen’s future studies as she struggles to cope under conditions comparable to a hearing, seeing student.  Helen is so aware that for a disabled child  the accumulation of vocabulary is a “slow and often painful process” but Helen strives to obtain “the amenities of conversation.”(Ch 6) She trusts Ann Sullivan so implicitly and, perhaps because Ann is also partially sighted, she is able to help Helen progress. Ann does not limit Helen to classroom-type activities, understanding Helen’s need to “experience”  and for Helen, it is not  “a painful plodding through grammar, hard sums and harder definitions.” (Ch 7)but enhances her learning to the point that “it is to-day one of my most precious memories.”

Helen’s experiences become “pearls of thought. “ Helen admits that she learns “from life itself.” (Ch 7)When Helen learns to speak, more doors are opened to her “My soul, conscious of new strength, came out of bondage, and was reaching through those broken symbols of speech to all knowledge and all faith"  (Ch 13) After this Helen is able to apply herself to academics, even if tedious and comes “to the appreciation of the real and the earnest. "(Ch 15)

When Helen goes to The Cambridge School , she is determined to be treated no differently although she must have the words spelled into her hands. Her teachers are accommodating and when writing her entrance exams for Radcliffe College, she needs to use a typewriter and have the papers “read” out to her so she writes in a room alone with a guard posted on the door. However, there are no other exceptions made for her. Helen continues her schooling but differences of opinion cause some changes but nothing will stop her. Eventually she is admitted into Radcliffe and recalls: “if they unintentionally placed obstacles in my way, I have the consolation of knowing that I overcame them all. “(Ch 19) 

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