What were the roles of Helen's parents in The Story of My Life by Helen Keller? 

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Helen's condition was, and is, exceptionally rare, so her parents could have been forgiven for not knowing how to cope. Yet they showed remarkable intelligence, courage, and fortitude in dealing with this matter, doing everything they could to ensure that Helen had the best possible start in life. In particular, they understood Helen's great natural curiosity and intellect, as well as how it was important for her to get an education. Many parents in their situation might have been a little intimidated at the prospect of engaging the services of the great Alexander Graham Bell, but not Mr. and Mrs. Keller. Helen's parents were determined to do everything possible to give Helen as normal a life as her condition would permit.

The hiring of Annie Sullivan was a hugely important decision, one that displayed great foresight. As Annie was visually impaired herself and had relatively little in the way of practical teaching experience, Helen's parents were taking a bit of a risk in employing her. But the risk paid off, and thanks to Annie's instruction and support, Helen was able to go on and make such a big mark on the world.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Helen Keller's parents were extremely supportive of their daughter.  As a toddler, an illness left Helen deaf and blind.  Her parents did not know what to do, but they sought help.  They contacted Alexander Graham Bell, who advised that they contact "Mr. Anagnos, director of the Perkins Institution in Boston."  It was through Mr. Anagnos that they found Annie Sullivan, the woman who would become Helen's lifelong teacher and companion.  

Helen's parents hired Ms. Sullivan and had her come live in their home. While sometimes hesitant, they usually supported Ms. Sullivan in her attempts to educate Helen.  When Helen was able to communicate, they continued to support her.  After her father's death, Helen's mother sent her to the Cambridge School for Young Ladies to prepare for Radcliffe College.  Her mother stayed involved in Helen's life, and she withdrew her from the school when she felt that a private tutor would be a better option.

Though Helen's parents were supportive and involved in her life, it was Ms. Sullivan that supported her on a day-to-day basis.  This was especially the case after Helen moved away from the family home.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial