The Story of My Life Characters


Mr. Anagnos
Mr. Anagnos was the director of the Perkins Institution. He sent Anne Sullivan to the Kellers’ home. He and Keller became friends, and he had her sit on his knee when she visited the Institution. When Keller wrote ‘‘The Frost King,’’ she sent it to him for his birthday, but because Mr. Anagnos came to believe that she intentionally plagiarized it, the friendship was forever ruined.

Dr. Alexander Graham Bell
Dr. Alexander Graham Bell first met Keller when she was six years old and her parents brought her to him for advice on how to teach her. Dr. Bell suggested that they contact the Perkins Institution for the Blind, which they did. Dr. Bell remained a friend to Keller and Anne Sullivan and accompanied them on a trip to the World’s Fair.

As a child, Keller sensed Bell’s tender disposition, as she notes in chapter three, ‘‘Child as I was, I at once felt the tenderness and sympathy which endeared Dr. Bell to so many hearts, as his wonderful achievements enlist their admiration.’’ The Story of My Life is dedicated to him.

Bishop Brooks
One of the ‘‘many men of genius’’ Keller knew, Bishop Brooks knew Keller from her childhood. He spoke beautifully to her throughout her life of religion, God, and spiritual matters, and he emphasized no particular religion as much as the importance of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of humankind. Keller enjoyed his company because he always gave her something meaningful to ponder.

Margaret T. Canby
Canby was the author of ‘‘The Frost Fairies,’’ on which Keller’s ‘‘The Frost King’’ was inadvertently based. Canby sent Keller an encouraging letter in which she expressed her belief that some day, Keller would write her own story that would be a comfort to its readers.

Dr. Chisholm
Dr. Chisholm was the oculist (eye doctor) who regretfully told the Kellers he could do nothing for their daughter. He did, however, refer them to Dr. Alexander Graham Bell.

Charles Townsend Copeland
Copeland taught Keller’s English composition class at Radcliffe College. She credited him with bringing ‘‘freshness’’ and ‘‘power’’ to literature, a subject she always loved.

Ella, Helen’s childhood nurse, was subject to Helen’s terrible fits and spiteful acts.

Miss Sarah Fuller
Fuller was the principal of the Horace Mann School, where Keller learned to speak. Keller writes in chapter thirteen, ‘‘This lovely, sweet-natured lady offered to teach me herself, and we began the twenty-sixth of March, 1890.’’

Mr. Gilman
Gilman was the principal at Radcliffe College. He was one of two instructors who learned the manual alphabet so that he could communicate directly with Keller.

Frau Gröte
Gröte was Keller’s German teacher at Radcliffe College. She was one of two teachers who learned the manual alphabet and so was able to instruct Keller directly.

Oliver Wendell Holmes
One of the ‘‘many men of genius’’ Keller knew, Holmes once called upon Sullivan and Keller to visit him. Keller smelled leather and ink in the room, so she knew she was surrounded by books. When Holmes shed a tear over a poem, Keller was touched.

Mr. Irons
A friend of a family Anne Sullivan and Keller visited, Irons was a Latin scholar who took Keller on as a student. Keller describes him as ‘‘a man of rare, sweet nature and of wide experience.’’ Irons also taught Keller about literature, and from his instruction she learned ‘‘to know an author, to recognize his style as I recognize the clasp of a friend’s hand.’’

Mr. Keith
Keith was Keller’s mathematics instructor at the Cambridge School for Young Ladies. It was not until she took his class that she truly understood the subject. After Keller withdrew from the Cambridge School for Young Ladies,...

(The entire section is 1658 words.)

The Story of My Life Themes and Characters

In one sense, Keller is really the only character in The Story of My Life. The other people are secondary to her story except as their actions affect her life. Anne Sullivan, as the person who makes it possible for Helen to communicate with other people and who serves as the primary mediator between Helen and the world, is the only other character that develops somewhat in the course of the narrative. Yet even she remains shadowy.

Keller interests people, because she overcame great handicaps, and her fight is both the focus and theme of her autobiography. Although loosely organized and episodic in structure, the book follows Helen's gradual growth from a helpless blind and deaf girl to an intellectually independent woman, and it emphasizes her constant striving to lead as normal a life as possible. The first chapters deal with Helen's life before the arrival of Sullivan and show how the absence of language skills imprisons her alert mind. Later chapters describe how she explores the world in the months after she acquires language. They also illustrate how capable she is of participating in all the activities of other girls her age. Keller continually focuses on her abilities, not her disabilities, so that the reader shares her discoveries with joy rather than pity.

Helen's excitement about learning is one of her most appealing characteristics. Coming to language later and with more difficulty than most people sharpens her conscious awareness and enjoyment of learning. Keller's narrative reveals how Sullivan uses all their daily experiences for educational purposes, and it conveys the curiosity and joy with which Helen explores her new world. Keller's account of her formal education at the Cambridge School for Young Ladies and at Radcliffe College does not make light of the difficulties she faces in competing with seeing and hearing women in regular classes, but it also communicates her enthusiasm for her studies, particularly through her critiques of the books she reads and their impact on her.