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In Chapter One of The Story of My Life, what does Helen mean by the expression, "the...

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pranavipranu | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 2, 2013 at 1:30 PM via web

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In Chapter One of The Story of My Life, what does Helen mean by the expression, "the shadows of the prison house are on the rest?"

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

Posted August 2, 2013 at 2:06 PM (Answer #1)

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The Story of My Life relates Helen Keller's personal account of the first twenty two years of her life. She wrote this autobiography whilst studying at Radcliffe College, fully aware of her extraordinary story and how she could help others by sharing her message of hope and triumph in the face of enormous challenges. She wants others to see the power of learning from "life itself." (Ch 7) 

Like most people, Helen recalls many of the positive events and people in her life but, unlike most, she does not restrict herself to those and gives an honest account of some of the traumatic events which reveal that her younger life also has many disappointments. She admits to the temper tantrums that occur "sometimes hourly" (ch 3) and how she often feels "anger and bitterness."(Ch 4)  

When Helen talks of "the shadows of the prison-house are on the rest" (ch 1) she is revealing that she cannot remember everything. The analogy with a prison-house is because most of the events that she has forgotten would have taken place before Annie Sullivan "set my spirit free." (Ch 1) Helen's life was comparable to a "prison-house" prior to Annie's arrival - "silent, aimless, dayless." (Ch 2) 

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