The Story of My Life is Helen Keller's own account of the first twenty one years of her life as she struggles with her disability, being both blind and deaf. At the age of nineteen months, Helen has an illness which she survives but which leaves her severely disabled. Chapter II begins the account of how Helen learns to cope. She acknowledges her mother's contribution and how she makes Helen's life more bearable. Before the arrival of Annie Sullivan, Helen's mother is responsible for "all that was bright and good in my long night."
By the age of five, Helen has learnt to complete small tasks and is incredibly proud of that fact. With her friend Martha who is the cook's daughter, she is allowed to help with the baking and feeding the hens and turkeys and even the Christmas preparations which gives Helen some measure of independence. She does get up to mischief, especially when she decides to cut Martha's hair. Fortunately, Helen's mother is usually on hand to diffuse any difficulties. This is especially important when Helen tries to throw her baby sister Mildred out of a cot which Helen wanted for Nancy, her doll.
Helen knows that others do not communicate using signs like she does and she mimics their efforts and what she presumes are their actions. She dresses up, even standing in front of the mirror and she says that "I moved my lips and gesticulated frantically without result" not able to understand why she cannot make herself understood like others can. This causes a great deal of frustration for Helen who often takes it out on her nurse Ella. Helen's dog Bella is also her companion but Helen finds Bella's lack of interest disappointing. Helen has also nearly burned herself and locked her mother in the pantry, an event that convinces her parents that Helen is in need of a teacher. When Miss Sullivan arrives, Helen promptly locks her in her room; Helen only produces the key some months later. Helen mentions her siblings, their move to a bigger house and her indulgent father, a newspaper editor, although at the time Helen does not understand the significance of his holding a newspaper.
In chapter III, Helen is aware of her inadequate means of communicating which causes more outbursts of anger "sometimes hourly." Helen's parents try to find means of helping her and they take a trip to Baltimore to see an eminent eye specialist. A referral is made to Dr. Alexander Graham Bell of Washington who would help find Helen a teacher. This meeting is a turning point for the family and Helen mentions how she would realize years later how "that interview would be the door through which I should pass from darkness into light." Mr. Anagnos and the Perkins Institution in Boston of which he is a director also become significant in Helen's future as Annie Sullivan who will arrive in March of 1887 will change Helen's life forever.