Black and white illustration of Helen Keller

The Story of My Life

by Helen Keller

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What was the role of Mark Twain in Helen's life?

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Part of Keller's goal in writing her life story is to show that a person with multiple handicaps can still have a full, rich existence. For Keller, part of that richness came through reading literature in Braille, and she spends time in her book describing some of the authors she most likes.

One of these authors is Mark Twain. His first role in her life, therefore, was as a writer whose books gave her great pleasure. She says the following about him as an author:

I love Mark Twain—who does not? The gods, too, loved him and put into his heart all manner of wisdom; then, fearing lest he should become a pessimist, they spanned his mind with a rainbow of love and faith.

She is also delighted when she has an opportunity to meet him. He lip reads her several stories (she puts her hand on his lips to "hear"). Interestingly, she writes of "hearing" his humorous voice in what must be her inner ear, or perhaps from the information relayed to her by Miss Sullivan:

Even while he utters his cynical wisdom in an indescribably droll voice, he makes you feel that his heart is a tender Iliad of human sympathy.

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Helen Keller was an avid reader.  She especially loved reading Mark Twain's books.  To her delight, he also became a friend to her.  When Helen was living in New York, she met Mr. and Mrs. Hutton.  She spent time with them, and "Mr. Hutton introduced [her] to many of his literary friends."  It was through Mr. Hutton that Helen met Mark Twain.  

Mark Twain was accommodating to Helen.  Her told her stories as she "read from [his] lips" by placing her fingers on his mouth.  She appreciated that he had "his own way of thinking, saying and doing everything."  She knew this about him even though she was deaf and blind because she was a very perceptive person.  Helen could even "feel the twinkle of his eye in his handshake."  She enjoyed his "cynical wisdom," as well as his tenderness.  Helen appreciated her friend for his unique personality and his kindness towards her and others.

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