Please provide a summary of  chapter one of the book The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

Expert Answers

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

Helen Keller wrote her autobiography The Story of My Life when she was at college and has provided inspiration to many people as they face seemingly  overwhelming challenges in their own lives.

In chapter one, when Helen begins writing,  the enormous task ahead of her does not elude her and she realises the responsibilities that go with such an undertaking. Helen wants people to know how she has struggled and how she has had many "dayless" times so is willing to lift "the veil that clings about my childhood like a golden mist." Her honesty is undeniable and her "fear" acknowledged.

She proceeds with factual details of her family and descendancy from Casper Keller from Switzerland on her father's side and a snippet of information about a relative from Zurich who started a school for the deaf and wrote a book - coincidentally.

Helen's family is from Alabama and her father a captain in the Confederate Army and her mother is Kate Adams, her father's second wife, much younger than him and from Tennessee. 

"The paradise of my childhood" is a fond memory for Helen, the garden being one of the most treasured places as she is able to "hide my hot face" in the grass after a temper tantrum and feels independent in the garden as she can locate landmarks from her sense of smell and touch.

Before her illness, Helen's life was, she presumes like any other as " I came, I saw, I conquered."She tells the story of the origin of her name - Helen Adams- as she fondly recalls her father's part in it. It is apparent that Helen is a bright child as, even at age six months she could apparently say" How d' ye" and made infantile attempts at "tea" and , significantly, "water." Attempts to walk were made at the age of exactly one.

Unfortunately, Helen's childhood contentment does not last long as her illness  "plunged me into the unconsciousness of a new-born baby. " Helen admits that she is a little confused about her recollections after her illness except it is like a nightmare which soon becomes her normal existence until the arrival of Ann Sullivan.

It is apt that chapter one ends with a reference to Ann Sullivan who "set my spirit free."

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial