In The Story of My Life by Helen Keller, how does Helen come to understand the importance of learning?

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As a Helen grows from a toddler who is blind and deaf to a school-age child, she becomes increasingly frustrated with her inability to communicate. She cannot learn and grow internally. She doesn't fully understand what is happening to her, but she begins to have more and more tantrums and meltdowns, often on a daily basis. This leads her parents to take her East to visit specialists. She meets with Alexander Graham Bell, who encourages her parents to contact the Perkins School for a possible teacher for her.

It is when Miss Sullivan arrives and is able to finally communicate with Helen by getting her to understand that she is writing words in her palm that Helen realizes the great importance of education. She writes fondly of Miss Sullivan as a superb teacher who made learning come alive for her. Helen understands that without the education Miss Sullivan provided, she would have been lost in angry frustration and a darkness more profound than that of being blind and deaf.

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Helen Keller's path to acceptance,understanding and learning as set out in her autobiography, The Story of My Life, is difficult and, although many people admire her, they cannot begin to contemplate the effort involved in "lifting the veil that clings about my childhood like a golden mist."(Ch 1) Helen recalls many of the positive events that shape her understanding and enhance her learning and although, perhaps fortunately for Helen, she has forgotten some of the events "of vital importance in my early education...in the excitement of great discoveries" (Ch1) she does recognize how they contribute to the whole childhood learning curve.

Even without realizing it, Helen contributes to her learning by being independent and inquisitive, finding her way around the garden and recognizing her location based on the the touch and smell of the flowers around her. It is Helen's first realization that life is not necessarily "silence and darkness," having forgotten "that it had ever been different,"(Ch 1) that helps Helen, as young as she is see the benefits of learning as Ann Sullivan "set my spirit free."

Helen becomes more and more frustrated with her inability to communicate effectively and her temper tantrums increase and "these outbursts occurred daily, sometimes hourly."(Ch 3). Once Ann Sullivan reveals "the immeasurable contrasts between the two lives which it connects" Helen seeks new experiences daily.  The word "W-A-T-E-R" becomes "That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free! (Ch 4)

 

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