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The life of Helen Keller was one of enormous achievement and was influenced by the opportunities presented to her in her childhood. The illness, Scarlet Fever, that rendered her deaf and blind as a baby, was not allowed to take over her life and instead her indomitable spirit and the support and love of her parents allowed her to grow into a successful adult, able, not only to develop her own sense of self but to contribute to the lives of others.
Helen's childhood was, by her own admittance, full of challenges and frustrations but started much like any other - " I came, I saw, I conquered, as the first baby in the family always does." After the illness, Helen "got used to the silence and darkness." Even an event after Helen's sister was born when Helen, jealous, pushed her sister Mildred out of the crib, did not change her parents' treatment of her and they, her mother particularly, did whatever they could to help her.
Until the arrival of Ann Sullivan -"who was to set my spirit free"-and change the course of Helen's life as effective means of communication became available to her, Helen's parents kept her occupied and encouraged her independence. Her friendship with Martha, her involvement with feeding the turkeys and milking the cows, even helping with the baking, all allowed Helen access to "normal" childhood experiences.
Helen's style in her autobiography is quite poetic and the reader can experience the joy Helen found after Ann's arrival. She had experienced many "silent, aimless, dayless " moments before Ann came and had many tantrums afterwards where she showed little remorse for her actions but they would become insignificant in the whole scheme of Helen's life. Fortunately, her family and friends loved and understood that her outbursts were her means of communicating or attempting to communicate .
With hindsight, Helen had a happy childhood and it undoubtedly shaped her future. At the time, I'm sure it must have been unique, challenging, disappointing, passionate and amazing all at the same time.
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