Describe Christmas before and after Miss Sullivan came in The Story of My Life. 

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teachersage's profile pic

teachersage | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Before Anne Sullivan arrives, Helen enjoys the preparations for Christmas. She describes how she and her companion, Martha Washington, the cook's daughter, were allowed

to grind the spices, pick over the raisins and lick the stirring spoons.

Christmas, however, has no particular meaning for her. She writes:

I hung my stocking because the others did; I cannot remember, however, that the ceremony interested me especially...

After Anne Sullivan arrives, she teaches Helen to communicate by writing in her palm. Now, for the first time, Helen can participate in planning Christmas surprises for others and can experience the thrill of anticipation as she tries to work out hints about gifts. As she explains in her book, she learns more about language through sharing this anticipation than she had before:

Miss Sullivan and I kept up a game of guessing which taught me more about the use of language than any set of lessons could have done. Every evening, seated round a glowing wood fire, we played our guessing game, which grew more and more exciting as Christmas approached.

Helen also has the opportunity to hand out gifts to local schoolchildren. She learns that Christmas is about giving as well as receiving and is so excited that she forgets about her own gifts. This giving is a moment of "supreme happiness" for her.

Helen lies awake the night before Christmas, anticipating the next morning. What had been an incomprehensible celebration in which she got to help make and eat some extra treats becomes suffused with meaning and sharing once Sullivan arrives: Helen becomes a full participant in the holiday, and this fills her with joy.

durbanville's profile pic

durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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In The Story of My Life, Helen Keller recounts her life before and after "the most important day in all my life" (chapter 4), that being the day Annie Sullivan arrives. The book is an autobiographical account of Helen's first twenty-two years in which Helen attempts to provide inspiration to those who find life's struggles almost unbearable. Before Annie's arrival, and despite her frustrations, Helen describes Christmases as "a delight." It is the "smells... and tidbits" (chapter 2) that Helen enjoys the most rather than the actual event itself and Helen admits that she is never inspired to rise particularly early in the morning to receive presents.  

Helen's life changes dramatically after Anne Sullivan's arrival and in chapter 8, Helen talks about the family's first Christmas with Miss Sullivan. Having learnt "language," Helen can now enjoy the subtleties and "mystery" of Christmas. Now it is Helen who lies awake at night and who wakes the family early in the morning on Christmas morning and who delights in the discovery of presents everywhere. It is the canary that Annie gives her that makes her "cup of happiness overflow." Therefore, even though Helen loved Christmas before she learnt to communicate effectively, how different Christmases are after she "learnt from life itself" (chapter 7).   

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