Black and white illustration of Helen Keller

The Story of My Life

by Helen Keller

Start Free Trial

Examine Helen's education in Radcliffe College as described in The Story of My Life.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Helen Keller had long dreamed of attending Harvard, the foremost college in the United States. In those days, however, only men could go to Harvard, so Keller attended the nearby women's college called Radcliffe.

Though Helen loved learning, she found Radcliffe difficult. The college was not at all equipped to make accommodations for a handicapped student. While the school tried its best to work with her, the obstacles were formidable. It was hard for her to get the books she needed in braille, the lectures were spelled into her hand all too quickly, and she felt she was constantly rushed. As she put it:

It is impossible, I think, to read in one day four or five different books in different languages and treating of widely different subjects, and not lose sight of the very ends for which one reads. When one reads hurriedly and nervously, having in mind written tests and examinations, one's brain becomes encumbered with a lot of choice bric-à-brac for which there seems to be little use.

Further, exams were a torture to her. She called them the "bugbears" of her college days. She found she would forget what she had studied when faced with these dreaded tests:

It is most perplexing and exasperating that just at the moment when you need your memory and a nice sense of discrimination, these faculties take to themselves wings and fly away. The facts you have garnered with such infinite trouble invariably fail you at a pinch.

She wrote that the reality of Radcliffe was different from her romantic dreams of it, but she appreciated that in attending the college she learned patience. She also concluded that knowledge is happiness, at least the kind of knowledge that can be deeply processed and used to feed the soul.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Helen attended Radcliffe College in Massachusetts.  She "began [her] studies with eagerness" at Radcliffe.  She found that the "lecture-halls seemed filled with the spirit of the great and the wise."  Helen soon found that the college was not all that she expected it would be.  She found that there was not enough time to think and reflect because of all the required tasks and work.  Someone spelled all the lectures into Helen's hand, and she used a typewriter to type up her assignments.  She took a mixture of classes that she enjoyed and classes that she was not as interested in during the first two years.  In her third year, she enjoyed her classes more.  Despite this, she found her mind to be "overtaxed" with information.  Helen dreaded final exams each time they came.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team