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Please provide a short summary of The Story of My Life covering events between chapters...

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user3000462 | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 14, 2013 at 8:18 AM via web

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Please provide a short summary of The Story of My Life covering events between chapters one to fourteen. 

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

Posted July 15, 2013 at 10:39 AM (Answer #1)

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Helen Keller wrote The Story of My Life in order to provide inspiration to others who may not otherwise believe that success can come to a disabled or inflicted person. She knows that it will be hard for her an she speaks about events that are painful for her and not just the favorable events.

The Story of My Life begins as most autobiographies with family details and heritage. The reader soon becomes aware of the importance of the garden to Helen,  which is "the paradise of my childhood" (Ch 1)and instrumental in providing her with independence and where she will spend many hours, reflecting after yet another temper tantrum which will become very frequent "sometimes hourly."(Ch 3)

A major turning point for Helen is the arrival of Ann Sullivan who will "set my spirit free" (Ch 1) after the illness that claims Helen's sight and hearing and plunges her in to a "dayless"  (Ch 2)existence.

Helen thinks fondly of her mother, ever patient and her doting father. She recalls a friendship with Martha Washington who helps her express her independent spirit and an incident when she tipsher baby sister out of a cot; fortunately her mother is there to catch Mildred, the baby. Helen and Mildred will become close after this event as Helen is "restored to my human heritage."(Ch 2)

A meeting with Alexander Graham Bell becomes "the door through which I should pass from darkness into light" (Ch 3)and sets up her education under Ann Sullivan who will teach Helen how to communicate starting with the word "W-A-T-E-R"-  "That living word awakened my soul" (Ch 4).

Stories that Helen relates include the day she experiences terror as she sits in a tree and the weather changes for the worst. Helen learns that "nature...under softest touch hides treacherous claws." (Ch 5) Helen is so fascinated by nature - and especially smells and touch that no event holds her back for long.

The discovery of words also brings abstract concepts to Helen's attention and the loving efforst of Ann Sullivan who perseveres allow Helen to learn to read; in fact her lessons , her days are structured in such a way tat Helen learns "from life itself." (Ch 7)

A visit to Boston, to the Perkins Institute,exposes Helen to other children who are blind and "what joy to talk with other children in my own language" (Ch 9) leaves Helen feeling content. The sea also proves a challenging but fascinating palce for Helen and she learns that this "all-enveloping element"(Ch 10) is formidable and although she experiences a terrifying moment when she goes under water, the sea will never lose its allure for Helen. There are memories of trips with her sister, Mildred and visits "North."

Learning to speak is another keypoint for Helen whose first audible  sentence, "It is warm" (Ch 13) leaves her "conscious of new strength" although she is fully aware of her shortcomings as her speech is difficult to understand. Her confidence levels however increase enormously as she realizes the potential of this new tool.

One of the most devastating events Helen recalls, from which she learnt a lot but which "is  the one cloud in my childhood's bright sky" (Ch 14)relates to a story she writes which turns out to be a story she must have heard earlier in her childhood. "The Frost King" loses her a cherished friendship as people struggle to believe that she never intended to "steal" a story and present it as her own. However, as with everything else in her life, Helen learns a bitter lesson but moves on.  

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