A brief character sketch of Miss Helen Keller.

Expert Answers

Want to remove ads?

Get ad-free questions with an eNotes 48-hour free trial.

Try It Free No Thanks
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mark Twain once said that the two most interesting characters of the nineteenth century were Napoleon and Helen Keller.

Helen Keller's life is a study in courage, the power of the will, the intellect, intuition, and a sense of humor. Once she discovered the key to understanding what Miss Anne Sullivan was doing by spelling into her hand, Helen came out of her dark confusion and demonstrated an insatiable hunger for knowledge. She faced every challenge with courage, striving always to learn and to experience the world around her.

A perspicacious learner, Helen responded quickly to all that was taught to her. She became attuned to muscular changes in her teacher's hand or her mother's hand when she held them. When Helen felt these changes, she would ask, 'What is wrong? What bothers you? What do you see?" And so, the astute Helen learned to interpret the muscular movements and changes in her beloved ones' hands. She greatly enjoyed learning from Miss Sullivan, who often took her outdoors. She observes in her autobiography, ‘‘It was my teacher’s genius, her quick sympathy, her loving tact which made the first years of my education so beautiful.’’

In 1890, Helen learned to talk, but she had difficulty with the tone and volume of her voice. While she made some progress, Helen's voice never acquired a natural sound. Nevertheless, speaking was quite an achievement for Helen. Another accomplishment that Helen felt she had made was the publishing of a short story in the Perkins School newsletter. Unfortunately, Helen confused her memory of something that she had once read with her imagination. This unfortunate circumstance cost Helen the friendship of Mr. Anagnos, the director of the Perkins Institution.

A monumental time in Helen Keller's history is her enrollment at Radcliffe College. Miss Sullivan was crucial to Helen's success because there were no books in braille. Indeed, Miss Sullivan was so often the bridge between enlightenment and darkness. In 1894 Helen attended the Wright-Humason School for the Deaf, where she studied for two years. In 1896, Keller then enrolled in the Cambridge School for Young Ladies in preparation for her entrance into Radcliffe College, but there were some there who thought Helen was pushing herself. So, Helen dropped out. She was, nevertheless, able to pass the entrance exam for Radcliffe and went on to graduate despite all the hurdles placed before her when there were no books printed in braille.

Helen Keller proved to the world that a deaf and blind person could succeed. Certainly, she has been an inspiration to many. As a political activist, Miss Keller was inducted into the Alabama Women's Hall of Fame in 1971. She was also an inductee into the Alabama Writers Hall of Fame on June 8, 2015, and there is a School named for the deaf and blind in Alabama.

mrshh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Helen Keller became deaf and blind as a toddler due to an illness.  When she was a child in the late 1800s, there were very few opportunities for anyone who was deaf and blind.  Despite this, Helen's parents were determined that their daughter should receive an education.  They contacted many people until they found help through a teacher.  Miss Annie Sullivan came to be Helen's teacher when the girl was almost seven.  Miss Sullivan worked very hard, and eventually she taught Helen to communicate using the manual alphabet.  Helen called this new knowledge her "soul's sudden awakening."

Helen was able to use the manual alphabet to fully communicate for the first time in her life.  She used her new knowledge of communication to get an education.  Helen eventually went to school and then college.  She enjoyed writing, which led her to write her autobiography.  Helen also loved traveling.  She enjoyed visiting a variety of places, such as Niagara Falls, New York City, the Hudson River Valley, and Nova Scotia.  Helen had many different friends, who she loved to visit and spend time with.  Helen described the impact that her friends had on her life:

In a thousand ways they have turned my limitations into beautiful privileges, and enabled me to walk serene and happy in the shadow cast by my deprivation.

Read the study guide:
The Story of My Life

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question