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Helen Keller's life is inexplicably changed when she is struck down by an illness at the age of nineteen months , which leaves her deaf and blind. She cannot understand how, just as her life experiences are expanding and her vocabulary increasing, she is suddenly "at sea in a dense fog, when it seemed as if a tangible white darkness shut you in."
The Story of My Life recounts Helen's experiences and allows the reader a glimpse into "the silence and darkness that surrounded me." At first, Helen is able to make herself understood by participating in everything around her and making "crude" signs which her mother is able to interpret. However, as she gets older, her limitations become more obvious and she takes refuge in the garden - "the paradise of my childhood"- where she can "hide my hot face in the cool leaves and grass" after yet another temper tantrum when her efforts to communicate prove fruitless. Helen's tantrums become more frequent to the point that they occur "sometimes hourly."
Admittedly, Helen knows she is a difficult child and there are many occasions when she is mean and shameful such as the time she tries to push her sister Mildred, out a a crib. Helen still needs to learn the value of human relationships as she is unable to contemplate "the tender affections that grow out of endearing words and actions and companionship."
Fortunately, Helen's supportive parents, despite being "deeply grieved and perplexed" by her outbursts do whatever they can to help her and to arrange an education for her.
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