What, in your opinion, is Helen Keller's state of mind before Anne Sullivan arrived to help her in The Story of My Life? To what does she compare herself?

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dymatsuoka's profile pic

dymatsuoka | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Helen Keller was understandably frustrated, angry, and depressed before Anne Sullivan arrived to help her.  Unable to communicate with those in the world around her, she felt imprisoned.  Her mood was especially dark and desperate in the days leading up to her teacher's arrival.  Helen says,

"Anger and bitterness had preyed upon me continually for weeks and a deep languor had succeeded this passionate struggle".

Helen compares herself and her situation to a boat stuck in a thick fog.  She describes her feelings by asking the reader,

"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 harbor was".

Helen was not quite seven when Anne Sullivan came into her life.  She describes the contrast between her life before and after Anne's arrival as "immeasurable" (Chapter 4 - "The Most Important Day").

 

teachersage's profile pic

teachersage | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Helen Keller likens herself to an Israelite enslaved in Egypt before Anne Sullivan's appearance, writing of her teacher's arrival:

Thus I came up out of Egypt and stood before Sinai, and a power divine touched my spirit and gave it sight, so that I beheld many wonders.

She also likens herself to a ship caught in a fog, unable to see the shore. 

Keller describes herself as angry and bitter before Sullivan's appearance, having frequent tantrums in order to get the attention she craved and also to have the excuse afterwards to crawl into her mother's lap and be held. She describes herself as so isolated by her disabilities that she could not feel compassion and empathy toward other people. She tells the story, for example, of being so angry when she finds her baby sister in her favorite doll's cradle that she dumps the baby out, heedless of the possibility of harming or killing her. It is not until after Keller has developed a bond with Sullivan and felt completely loved that she is able to reach out and love others.

User Comments

naynay15's profile pic

naynay15 | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

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helen was very anger. she couldnt talk to anymore or hear anything. she had to show signs that she wanted things. she was used to getting her way. then she had to change that.