What is a summary of Helen Keller's The Story of My Life?

The Story of My Life is an autobiography by Helen Keller, who lost her hearing and vision as a child. She describes how she learned to read, write, and talk with the help of her teacher, Anne Sullivan.

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Helen Keller wrote The Story of My Life when she was only 22, so it is the story of her childhood, adolescence, and very young adult years.

The most famous part of the memoir focuses on her early life. She remembers and conveys very clearly the experience of losing her hearing and eyesight after an illness that occurred before she was two years old. She records the growing frustration she felt as she grew older and her thoughts became more sophisticated, but she had no way to express them.

Keller tells of the transformative arrival of Miss Sullivan, comparing it to the parting of the Red Sea and God's salvation of the Israelites. She describes learning to communicate and the great joy that education and the ability to interact on a deeper level with other people brought her. It also covers the plagiarism scandal that almost destroyed her reputation. In this episode she tried, probably by accident, to pass off someone else's story as her own.

The memoir also covers her forays into higher education. She and Miss Sullivan, after a period at a boarding school, arrive at Radcliffe, where Miss Sullivan supports Keller as she takes college-level courses. This section is a reminder of what a life largely without accommodations looks like to a handicapped person.

The book is largely upbeat, reflecting Keller's optimistic outlook on life and her awareness that she was extremely fortunate and privileged to have encountered Miss Sullivan and become a celebrity.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on January 19, 2021
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Helen Keller’s autobiography, The Story of My Life, covers the first part of the author’s life, up until her graduation from Radcliffe College. It is strongly focused on her education.

In the second year of her life, Keller became seriously ill, and her eventual recovery left her deaf and blind. Her parents took her to seeing one of the country’s leading oculists, Dr. Chisholm of Baltimore, who said that he could do nothing to cure her blindness, but that she could still be educated.

In 1887, Anne Mansfield Sullivan came to the Kellers’ home to be Keller’s teacher. Sullivan taught her pupil to spell out letters into her hand and, one day, managed to connect in her mind the cool, fresh sensation of running water with the word “water.” The following year, Keller went to study at the Perkins Institution for the Blind, and in 1890 she began to learn the elements of speech under the tuition of Sarah Fuller, principal of the Horace Mann School. Upon returning home, she found that she could speak well enough for her family to understand her.

Keller describes the ways in which she learned to experience the world through touch. In 1893, she visited the World’s Fair, where she was allowed to touch the exhibits. She also enjoyed attending the theater, where she would sometimes be able to imagine the expressions of the actors after running her fingers over their faces.

In 1900, Keller matriculated at Radcliffe College and found that, by working very hard, she was able to keep up with her hearing and seeing classmates. She pays tribute to all the people who helped her, particularly Anne Sullivan but also Alexander Graham Bell and many other remarkable people it has been her privilege to know.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on April 30, 2020
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The Story of my Life by Helen Keller is an autobiography that recounts Helen’s experiences as she adjusts to the world as a blind and deaf person. Helen begins the story by describing her earliest memories of sights and sounds and her memory of contracting the illness that resulted in her deafness and blindness. Helen learned sign language after her illness, but she describes the isolation she felt from the world around her and the frustration she felt while trying to learn.

At the age of six, Helen’s life changes drastically when she is referred to a teacher who has had tremendous success educating blind and deaf children. Helen devotes the rest of the book to describing her experiences learning to read, write, and speak under the tutelage of her teacher, Anne Sullivan. She describes the sensory experiences Miss Sullivan encouraged that helped her first learn words, and then learn the meaning of words, and then gain a fuller understanding of their meaning in the world around her. Helen describes moments of insight that came over the course of her learning as she was able to connect her learning activities to her childhood memories of sights and sounds. By the end of the book, the author’s descriptions of past and present come together to give the story continuity and meaning.

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The Story of My Life is the autobiography of Helen Keller, written in 1903 while she was a student at Radcliffe College. She describes her childhood memories prior to losing her hearing and vision, focusing on her memories of speech and early love for language. Later in her childhood, Keller became increasingly frustrated with her difficulties with communication and lashed out when she felt her sign language was insufficient. Much of the book focuses on her experiences with her teacher, Anne Sullivan, who Keller often refers to as Teacher. Sullivan was a teacher at the Perkins Institute for the Blind and started teaching a seven-year-old Keller to communicate by spelling out words and how to read Braille. By the age of ten, Keller could communicate with Sullivan and read Braille fluently, and had even learned how to speak. The book details her attempts to continue developing language skills with her teacher, and describes her later success as an honors student at Radcliffe College.

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