In The Story of My Life by Helen Keller, what kind of "peculiar sympathy" did Miss Sullivan have with Helen's "pleasures and desires"?

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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In The Story of My Life, Helen Keller's autobiography of the first twenty-two years of her life, Helen reveals the special relationship she has with Annie Sullivan. Helen remembers the day she met Annie as "the most important day in all my life" (chapter 4) and she is well aware of Annie's contribution to her own development to the point that "I scarcely think of myself apart from her" (chapter 7). 

Annie is only partially sighted herself and has had her own difficult childhood which allows her to understand Helen's many frustrations even though they are very distinct from her own. She has far more than just sympathy for Helen and her refusal to feel pity for her ensures that Helen is able to strive towards her potential, even without realizing it. Annie knows the obstacles that already exist because Helen cannot see and knows how important it is "to supply the kinds of stimulus I lacked" (ch 6) because Helen's problems are confounded by her inability to hear as well. Annie is only young and the Keller home is her first job and although this means she lacks experience it also means that she can relate to Helen like no-one else can, "as if she were a little girl herself" (ch 7). Annie therefore ensures that Helen's lessons are relative to her situation, and as Helen says, "everything that could hum, or buzz, or sing, or bloom had a part in my education." 

It is this unsaid understanding or "peculiar sympathy" which Helen refers to in chapter 7 that allows Annie to help Helen achieve. Helen admits that, because of Annie, she learns "from life itself." She cannot explain it herself but does acknowledge Annie's "long association with the blind." She also recognizes Annie's "wonderful faculty for description" and the fact that she does not deliberate on previous day's lessons. Helen appreciates her style and the way Annie "introduced dry technicalities of science little by little," all of which ensure that Helen cannot "help remembering what she taught."

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