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Please provide a summary of the first five chapters of The Story of My Life by Helen...

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shehna | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 6, 2013 at 4:07 PM via web

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Please provide a summary of the first five chapters of The Story of My Life by Helen Keller. 

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

Posted August 7, 2013 at 4:48 AM (Answer #1)

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In The Story of My Life by Helen Keller, Helen shares stories and memories of events that are most prominent in her mind and which provide a picture for the reader of the struggles and frustrations she faces. Helen Keller is so frustrated prior to the arrival of Annie Sullivan that her "grieved and perplexed" parents look for opportunities to help her and relieve her "silent, dayless" (ch 2) existence.

The first five chapters discuss Helen's family origins, her paternal grandfather originating from Switzerland. They reveal Helen's affinity for the garden - "the paradise of my childhood" (ch 1) - where she finds solace as her sense of touch and smell allow her to find her way around and experience some independence. It is this independent spirit that will ensure Helen makes a success of her life as she never gives up and takes every opportunity to learn something.  

Helen describes her parents, her mother's reassuring attitude and "loving wisdom (was) all that was bright and good in my long night," (ch 2) and her "loving and indulgent" (ch 2) father. Helen's relationship with her sister Mildred establishes itself later as Helen is reluctant to share her mother's attentions with her baby sister. She pushes Mildred out of the crib usually reserved for her beloved doll, Nancy but a catastrophe is avoided as Helen's mother is on hand. After this event, Helen, "restored to my human heritage" (ch 2) comes to value her relationship with Mildred and they are firm friends.

The meeting with Dr Alexander Graham Bell is crucial in Helen's development and opens " the door through which I should pass from darkness into light." (Ch 3) Setting the family up to meet Mr Anagnos from the Perkins' Institute for the Blind, prepares Helen for "the most important day I remember in all my life" (ch 4) - the day Annie Sullivan arrives. 

Helen's education begins in earnest and chapter four reveals the turning point for Helen as some means of communication is introduced and Helen comes to the realization that "'w-a-t-e-r' meant the wonderful cool something." (Ch 4) She is so encouraged by this revelation that gives her whole existence "light, hope, joy, set it free!"(ch 4)

Eager to continue her discoveries, following "my soul's sudden awakening" (ch 5), Helen also includes in this chapter, her ordeal when, left to play in a tree, a sudden storm strikes and she feels "cut off from my friends and the firm earth." (Ch 5) As always, Helen learns from this experience. Although it is a long time before she climbs another tree, she cannot resist the smell of the mimosa tree and soon it becomes the place for "thinking fair thoughts and dreaming bright dreams."(Ch 5)

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