In Helen Keller's autobiography The Story of My Life, the arrival of Anne Sullivan coincided with the coming of spring. What symbolic significance does it hold?

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tamarakh's profile pic

Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Chapter III of her autobiography The Story of My Life, Helen Keller explains her experiences with traveling to various doctors and being recommended a teacher in "the summer of 1886," when she was six years old. It was a little less than a year later, the next March, that her teacher Anne Sullivan came to them. While we certainly can see spring as being symbolic, one might hesitate to call spring in Helen's autobiography symbolic since Helen is accounting for us the true facts of her life. In real life, life occurrences do not happen at certain times for deeper symbolic meaning; they simply happen. While one might attribute symbolic meaning to a real-life event, it would be a stretch to say that the event actually has symbolic meaning because an historic event is simply an historic event. Only in literature do events really have symbolic meaning.

In the summertime during 1886, she and her family had journeyed from their home in Alabama to Baltimore, where they went to see Dr. Chisholm, an oculist who had helped many cases of blindness. Dr. Chisholm was unable to do anything for Helen but suggested they speak with Dr. Alexander Graham Bell in Washington, D.C., the inventor of the telephone, for advice on seeing to Helen's education. Dr. Bell recommended they write to Mr. Anagnos, the director of the Perkins Institution for the blind in Boston, for a teacher he could recommend. Mr. Anagnos responded within a few weeks giving "comforting assurance that a teacher had been found." However, Anne Sullivan "did not arrive until the following March."

Spring is a time of growth, rebirth, and rejuvenation. All of nature that had been asleep during the winter awakens and begins to grow. Plus, new seeds that had taken root in an earlier season begin to grow. In addition, baby animals are born. This period of growth and birth helps nature progress through its endless cycle. We can also symbolically apply nature's time of growth, rebirth, and rejuvenation to our own mental and spiritual states to see spring as a time of awakening and of transforming ourselves into something new. Hence, Miss Sullivan's appearance in early spring is certainly coincidental because it coincides with Helen's own awakening and rebirth into a person with new knowledge and eventually new spiritual and moral understanding.

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lbyrdblanks's profile pic

lbyrdblanks | eNotes Newbie

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The symbolic significance is that during this time Helen grew as a child. She blossomed as the flowers do in the spring. It was during this time that her mind opened and she learned. She learned that THINGS have NAMES and her hands and voice could now form those names. Spring represents growth and new life. Helen started her new journey during this time. 

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