The Story of My Life Questions and Answers
by Helen Keller

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How does the teacher explain the concept of love to Helen Keller in The Story of My Life?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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One day, not too long after Helen learns to communicate, she brings Miss Sullivan some violets. When Miss Sullivan tries to kiss her in response, Helen resists the embrace, at that time only liking her mother to kiss her. So instead, Miss Sullivan writes "I love Helen" in her hand.

Helen, of course, doesn't understand what the word love means and asks Miss Sullivan about it. To explain it, Miss Sullivan indicates Helen's heart, but this still makes no sense to Helen. She only understands concrete images.

Finally, one day, Helen is able to understand the word "think," another abstract word, and this leads her back to love. She asks Miss Sullivan if it is like the sun coming out after a rainy day. Miss Sullivan explains that love is not something concrete that can be seen or held but rather a "sweetness":

"Love is something like the clouds that were in the sky before the sun came out," she replied. Then in simpler words than these, which at that time I could not have understood, she explained: "You cannot touch the clouds, you know; but you feel the rain and know how glad the flowers and the thirsty earth are to have it after a hot day. You cannot touch love either; but you feel the sweetness that it pours into everything. Without love you would not be happy or want to play."

The beautiful truth burst upon my mind—I felt that there were invisible lines stretched between my spirit and the spirits of others.

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Corinne Smith eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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This story comes in Chapter 6. Anne Sullivan was teaching Helen words for all sorts of things, using finger language. Abstract concepts were trickier. One day Anne spelled out, “I love Helen.” Helen responded by asking, “What is love?” Anne pointed to her heart and said, “It is here.” Helen was confused and made some guesses that weren’t quite on the mark. A few days later, while Helen was having problems working with beads, Anne stopped her, touched her forehead, and told her to “Think.” Helen suddenly realized what that word meant. And she related it to the kind of word she thought “love” was. Anne was able to make the additional connection when she described scenes of nature that made Helen happiest:

You cannot touch the clouds, you know … You cannot touch love either; but you feel the sweetness that it pours into everything. Without love you would not be happy or want to play.

This is when Helen understood the concept of love.

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