Role Of Anne Sullivan In Helen Keller Life

In The Story of My Life, how did Anne Sullivan provide Helen with hope for a succesful future and faith that the world would recognise her and love her?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Without Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller would have been walled into a dark, hopeless world. Miss Sullivan was Helen's lifeline. 

It was the stalwart and persistent Miss Sullivan who managed to figuratively and literally lead Helen to water. Water was the object which allowed Helen to make the connection between the spelling of the word water into the palm of her hand and the object named. The expression "water is life" also applies to Helen's mental connection with the signing and the object. It was then that her fruitful life began. Because she understood that Anne was spelling the word for the substance spilling from the pump, Helen then was able to leave her self-contained life and go out into the world, where she could interact with others and learn.

When Helen began her learning, Miss Sullivan was very patient with her. She made raised letters for Helen to learn the alphabet. She also used real objects, such as fossils to teach about dinosaurs, so that Helen would have something to touch, allowing her to make connections with the time period and concepts. The appreciative Helen once said, "All the best of me belongs to her" (Ch.1). Through Miss Sullivan, Helen formed friendships with other people. Helen further described her close relationship with Miss Sullivan in these words: "Her being is inseparable from my own, and the footsteps of my life are in hers" (Ch. 7).

Miss Sullivan was always Helen's defender. For instance, when Helen was at the Gilmer School, she became slightly ill and the director, Mr. Gilmer, felt that Helen was "breaking down." He made such changes in her coursework that would have prohibited Helen from taking her final examination with her class. Miss Sullivan consulted with Mrs. Keller. Consequently, her mother withdrew both Helen and her sister, Mildred, from this school. Helen's preparations for college continued smoothly after this incident.

Miss Sullivan was indispensable to Helen when she attended Radcliffe College because at the time that Helen attended (She graduated in 1900), there were few devices available for the blind. For instance, Miss Sullivan spelled into her hands what the professor said during lectures. Later, after Helen graduated, Anne Sullivan married, but she never stopped serving Helen, even though she was married. After Anne's divorce, she traveled with Helen, and they stood on stages telling audiences of Helen's successes. Together they fascinated audiences.

durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In The Story of My Life, Helen Keller holds Anne Sullivan in the highest esteem and is forever indebted to her for her enormous efforts, working far beyond expectations and ensuring Helen's ongoing success in everything she does. Helen even recalls the day Miss Sullivan arrives as being "The most important day I remember in all my life."(Ch 4) It is the methods of teaching that allow Helen to thrive ensuring that each new experience, including the negative ones, allows Helen to "learn from life itself." (Ch 7)

Chapter six reveals Anne Sullivan's dedication and Helen's beginning appreciation for Annie as they "discuss" the meaning of love and Helen grasps her first abstract idea as she has to "think." 

Helen attends the Cambridge School and has already set her sights on attending college - namely Radcliffe.  Annie Sullivan spells the words into Helen's hand and others try to help - and to relieve Annie who works so hard. As much as they helped, "there was only one hand that could turn drudgery into pleasure." (Ch 18) As Helen goes on successfully, she learns to take solace and enjoyment from the pleasure of others when her own problems threaten to overwhelm her "and we feel its healing touch" (Ch 23)

Everything Helen does and everywhere she goes, she is accompanied by "Teacher." Annie Sullivan is a constant inspiration and tireless advocate for Helen, enabling her to help not only herself but many others who find inspiration in Helen Keller's life story. 

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The Story of My Life

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