Please give a brief summary of chapter four of The Story of My Life by Helen Keller.

Expert Answers

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

Helen Keller reveals many important incidents in her development during the first twenty two years of her life, as told in her autobiography, The Story of My Life. Helen is far from the perfect child, purposefully upsetting those around her due to her frustrations at her inability to communicate effectively. Her parents, dedicated, become "deeply grieved and perplexed"(ch 3) anxious to find a way to help her as her outbursts become more frequent "almost hourly."

Chapter four then starts fittingly with the event that is to change Helen's life and her future. Anne Sullivan who is "to set my spirit free" (ch 1) eventually arrives at Helen's home, to begin teaching Helen. The family have waited several months for her arrival. This marks " the most important day I remember in all my life." (Ch 4) Helen is poetic and compares herself to being lost at sea, in a "dense fog" as she tries to explain her life before Annie's arrival. The importance of this day will never leave her "and the light of love shone on me in that very hour. (Ch 4)

Helen is thrilled, at first, at her ability to spell words, such as "d-o-l-l" but only because it is interesting "finger play"(ch 4) and these words mean nothing more than that to her. It soon becomes an irritation for Helen, spelling the words and, in one of her tantrums, she breaks the doll that Miss Sullivan brought her. She feels a smug satisfaction that the source of her irritation has been removed. As with most things, Helen moves on to the next thing as they go out into the garden.

A short while later, " the mystery of language was revealed to me" as Helen is able to make the connection between "W-A-T-E-R"  (ch 4) and water - "the wonderful cool something." This signifies far more than just language for Helen; it gives her existence meaning. She even tries to fix the broken doll and "for the first time I felt repentance and sorrow." Helen remembers learning the words for mother, father, teacher and sister amongst others and can't wait for a new day to start so she can continue learning "the living word."  

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

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