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In chapter 21 of The Story of My Life by Helen Keller, Helen who was struck down by an illness that left her blind and deaf at the age of only nineteen months, talks about her "book friends." She is an avid reader and recognizes the enormous contribution that books have made to her education, more so than they may have to a sighted person.
Helen admits that when she was young, it was the words themselves that "fascinated' her not necessarily any real understanding and her enriched vocabulary belied her actual real grasp of meaning. "Little Lord Fauntleroy" is the first book that Helen develops a real "longing" for to the point that she knows it almost off by heart because she reads it repeatedly. Helen describes the book as "my sweet and gentle companion."
Many other books follow and "they laid their treasures at my feet, and I accepted them as we accept the sunshine and the love of our friends." The books are Helen's link to a world that she can only imagine and therefore take on their own personalities. She admits that she does not like "The Pilgrim's Progress, or La Fontaine's Fables" although she love "The Jungle Book" and feels that she is able to enjoy its "loves, ... laughs...and weeps."
Helen points out that it is the books' content which appeals to her and that she has no desire to learn the intricacies of correct grammar. Helen even learns a deep appreciation for the Bible which she previously overlooked.
Therefore in providing a character sketch of chapter 21 and Helen's "book friends," the emphasis is on the type of books Helen is most passionate about and how they have all contributed to forming Helen's own personality. Literature is, as Helen says herself, "My Utopia." It is as if all the books have combined to create a whole and belong in a place where Helen is not isolated nor does she have feelings of "embarrassment or awkwardness." Books are invaluable.
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