Do you think Helen Keller had a happy childhood, in terms of her autobiography, The Story of My Life?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In describing Helen Keller's childhood, it would be a fair judgment to say that she did in fact have a happy childhood, in terms of The Story of My Life but even she expresses her own reservations about "lifting the veil that clings about my childhood like a golden mist" (ch1) perhaps in case it uncovers unpleasant memories that are more than she can bear and which "the shadows of the prison-house" preclude her from remembering at this point. Like any recollections of the past, it is an overall perspective and, especially in Helen's case, does not exclude many heart-wrenching occurrences.

Helen Keller uses vivid descriptions in The Story of My Life and draws the reader in to a place where the sense of touch provides most of the stimulation. It is obvious that Helen uses all her opportunities as part of her learning curve and this is what gives her that unfailing drive and determination as she learns "from life itself."(Ch 7) Even small things are remembered if they contribute to her development and the negative impact is soon replaced by enthusiasm in "the excitement of great discoveries." (Ch 1)

The garden is "the paradise of my childhood" and often the place to where Helen retreats after another temper tantrum, caused by her frustration at not being able to communicate effectively. "These outbursts occurred daily, sometimes hourly." Ch 3). Helen knows she is not the most pleasant child,but recognizes "the wordless cry of my soul"(ch 4) as her need to communicate. Even when Annie Sullivan comes who "was to set my spirit free" (ch 1) Helen is often unkind but "neither sorrow nor regret" (ch 4) pervades her existence and she is able to move on, not recalling punishment or any steps taken to prevent her or discourage her behavior.

The fact that Helen recounts many events that may have incurred punishment but does not recall any form of punishment also shows that her childhood must have been "happy" because others mostly seem to distract her and involve her in other activities, after any nasty incidents, which ensure Helen is able to "hop and skip with pleasure." (Ch 4)

It is typical of Helen Keller's outlook to find the positive from anything and her childhood which must have had many traumatic elements is transformed into a, sometimes idyllic, memory.   

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The Story of My Life

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