What was Helen Keller's state of mind before Anne Sullivan arrived to teach her, as described in The Story of My Life?

Expert Answers

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

Helen lost her vision and hearing at the age of nineteen months - an age at which the ability to communicate is rapidly expanding in the normal development of the human infant. This process was abruptly cut off for Helen, and her reaction to being deprived of the visual and auditory stimuli she had been accustomed to receiving was one of great frustration and confusion.

Have you ever been at sea in a dense fog, when it seemed as if a tangible white darkness shut you in, and the great ship, tense and anxious, groped her way toward the shore with plummet and sounding-line, and you waited with beating heart for something to happen? I was like that ship before my education began, only I was without compass or sounding-line, and had no way of knowing how near the harbour was.

Helen struggled to make herself understood in her new condition but was dealing with very limited means of communication as a result of her very young age when the critical senses of sight and hearing were lost. Attempting to express her needs and feelings, attempting to understand what was being done to her when she had no concept of how it fit in with her surroundings or why it was expected, attempting to relate to her environment when she had minimal input to understand that environment - Helen spent the early years of her life feeling angry, confused, frustrated, and isolated.


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