Summary (Identities & Issues in Literature)
The Story of My Life was written while Helen Keller, then in her early twenties, was a student at Radcliffe College. It is a moving story of the education of a child with the extreme handicap of being deaf and blind. The book begins with a rather vague description of young Helen’s earliest memories, before she became deaf and blind at the age of nineteen months, but most of it narrates her teaching by Anne Sullivan of the Perkins Institute for the Blind.
The Story of My Life is far from the cry for help that it might easily have been. The tone is one of joy. Keller emphasizes her early love of language. She recalls learning to speak before she lost her ability to see or hear and her desperate attempts to reawaken this ability. Throughout the book, there is a strong emphasis on her love of language, especially the written word, which was, after all, one of the few ways she had of relating to the outside world.
The major emphasis of A Story of My Life is on the work of Sullivan, whom Helen always in this book refers to as Teacher. As subsequent writings made clearer, Sullivan’s methods were far from orthodox at the time. She communicated with Helen mostly by use of the manual alphabet, although lip-reading with fingers was also attempted. At the time, oral communication was almost universally stressed among educators of deaf children.
When this book was written, Keller had already published a few...
(The entire section is 423 words.)
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Keller's ability to communicate despite her handicaps has always fascinated people. To read her autobiography is to experience that communication as closely as possible. Readers gain a sense of what it would be like to be both deaf and blind, and of how a normal human being faced extraordinary difficulties with courage and grace. It is important to remember that Keller wrote this book while still in college, when she was about twenty-two years old. Covering only her childhood and young womanhood, this "story of her life" is an incomplete one, for she had over sixty years yet to live.
(The entire section is 100 words.)
After providing brief descriptions of her home in Alabama and her family members, Keller explains how she became disabled—a fever she had when she was nineteen months old left her blind and deaf—and her first memories of being disabled, recounting her early attempts to communicate. Keller reviews her parents’ efforts to find her medical treatment and educational assistance, as well as her early experiences with her first teacher, Anne Sullivan.
Following the illness that left her blind and deaf, Keller got accustomed to the darkness and the silence but retained the memories of the sights and sounds she had enjoyed before her illness. Keller devised a simple system of gestures and tried very hard to make herself understood by her family. She knew when she was being difficult, but she felt she had to resort to fits of temper and frustration because the few signs she used to express herself were inadequate.
Keller’s parents were hopeful when they read about Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, who had taught a deaf-blind girl named Laura Bridgman. They were also hopeful about a possible eye surgery, but the eye doctor could only refer them to Dr. Alexander Graham Bell, who knew about schools and teachers for children like Keller. Dr. Bell advised the Kellers to contact the Perkins Institution in Boston. Shortly before Keller’s seventh birthday, Anne Sullivan arrived to educate Keller. Sullivan began teaching Keller the...
(The entire section is 1323 words.)