Essays and Criticism
Surprising Use of Sense and Imagery
Helen Keller is regarded as a heroic figure who overcame extreme hardship to accomplish impressive goals, both personally and publicly. At the age of nineteen months, she fell ill with a fever that left her blind and deaf. Despite her early plunge into silence and darkness, Keller was able to learn to read and speak as a result of her personal persistence and the hard work of her teacher, Anne Sullivan. Even as a child, Keller craved communication with the world and longed to feel connected to others. She then took her ability to communicate and pursued a career as a lecturer and writer, tirelessly advocating social reform for the physically challenged, women, and minorities. What is so surprising about her eloquent words is her frequent references to sight and sound. In The Story of My Life she recounts her experiences, often with sensory descriptions that do not seem possible given her complete reliance on smell, taste, and, most importantly, touch. This essay will review some of these descriptions and then offer several possible explanations for Keller’s ability to write such vibrant passages.
Keller felt a deep bond with nature and turned to it as a source of comfort and learning. In her autobiography, she frequently writes about nature, and this is the subject matter for some of her most moving sensory images. Her ability to describe nature this way appears as early as the first chapter, in which she explains that beside the house where she...
(The entire section is 1528 words.)
In The Story of My Life Helen Keller recounts her early experiences of being awakened to a world of words and concepts through the brilliant teaching methods of her tutor and constant companion, Anne Sullivan. She carefully retraces the moments when she first connected a word with the physical object it represents (water) and continues on to describe how she gradually built up a vocabulary and an understanding of not only a physical world, but also a world of intangible concepts, ideas, images and emotions. Keller connected to the world through the words that were spelled into her hand, and it was these words that sparked an understanding of human existence. By realizing that words could be put together to evoke mental images, Keller suddenly began to grasp concepts and ideas of things that she could not physically smell or touch. She began to understand and explore how words could be used to represent emotions and how experiences could be described through simile and metaphor. Keller began to understand the poetry of the world. Thus, it is not surprising that Keller’s autobiography is much more than a traditional linear narrative of a life story. It is also a poetic work.
In The Story of My Life, Keller does much more than recount the chronological events of her life. Through her use of poetic language, she also gives the reader a rich sense of her unique experience of the world. The language Keller uses is as important to the...
(The entire section is 1861 words.)
The Many Reasons For This Exemplary Work
A book is a strange object. It is inanimate, of course, but not permanently so. Anyone who reads with passion knows that the moment a book is read, it ceases to be an inanimate ‘‘thing’’ and becomes instead an animated source of fascination, pleasure, and/or knowledge. Had Dr. Frankenstein not been so insanely obsessed with bringing the human form back to life, he might have satisfied his creative and procreative urges by reading books.
The paradox is that the book cannot come alive until it is read, so it has no ability of its own to entice a reader to open it. Someone must speak for a book. Publishing companies spend millions upon millions to advertise books, to design appealing covers and artwork, and to acquire celebrity endorsements. However, most books that arouse passion do not reach readers as the result of advertising campaigns. Most of them come to the attention in one of two ways: an acquaintance suggests a book either directly or indirectly, or the book is assigned for an educational purpose. Upon reading, some of these books become favorites because of their story, their style, or their ability to stimulate the mind. The Story of My Life hits all three of these marks. It is fascinating in its subject, beautiful in its writing, and thought-provoking in its nature.
Helen Keller was a woman whom adjectives fail to describe. Extraordinary, remarkable, and even brilliant are inadequate. Was she...
(The entire section is 2334 words.)