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The Story of My Life

by Helen Keller

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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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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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In The Story of My Life, the arrival of Annie Sullivan coincided with the coming of spring. What symbolic significance does it hold?

The Story of My Life is Helen Keller's autobiographical account of her early life, particularly after she was left blind and deaf following an illness when she was a baby. The story traces Helen's life up to her college days and is intended to be a form of inspiration for others who face great adversity and may otherwise be tempted to give up trying. The arrival of Annie Sullivan who is to be Helen's teacher marks the start of Helen's incredible journey towards effective communication in a world where otherwise every day is "silent (and) aimless" (chapter 2). However, the story is not structured that way and it is coincidental that Annie's arrival...

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corresponds with the beginning of Spring. 

The family is referred to Dr. Alexander Graham Bell and he connects the family with The Perkins' Institute for the Blind. Annie Sullivan, herself only partially sighted, and a former pupil of the institute, will becomes Helen's teacher and it is the summer of 1886 when the family receive the news that a teacher will indeed be available for Helen. However, it is only the following March (1887) when Miss Sullivan finally arrives and Helen calls it "the most important day ... in all my life" (chapter 3). 

Spring is the time of anticipation, new life and new opportunities and it is seen as being symbolic of hope and a sense of optimism which this family certainly has. It certainly does present as such for Helen who escapes the "barren places' that otherwise plague her existence. Annie Sullivan herself is the symbol of hope for Helen and her arrival, during any season would have been equally significant. 

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