In terms of The Story of My Life, and the account of Helen Keller's ealy life, in what ways did Helen's intelligence and talent both serve her well and cause her frustration and rage?  

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Helen Keller's remarkable life and her achievements throughout her life, despite being inflicted with an illness at only nineteen months which left her blind and deaf, are testament to her determination and her ability to learn from every experience.

The Story of My Life recount Helen's early years up to the age of 22 at which point her achievements were already substantial. She started writing her autobiograph when she was 20 so that others could learn from, not only her successes but also from the many, many frustrations and times when her rage threatened to derail her.

It is because Helen Keller was so bright that she was able to rise to such prominence; her story is known and told worldwide and represents hope where there seemingly is none. Helen's superior intelligence, easily recognizable throughout The Story of My Life,  however also makes it all the more difficult for her as, when she struggles to communicate, she is overly hard on herself and towards her loved ones, her parents especially who are " grieved and perplexed." 

It is a testament to her parents that they carried on and tried to expose her to all things, involving her in their activities and allowing her participation. Helen was born in 1880 and a disabled child would have been frowned upon and the family possibly mocked and ostracised. Her parents however allow her free expression and she even dresses up in what she thinks is appropriate attire, based on her "observations" as she feels, examines and finds a place in her thoughts for ever little detail. She is aware that her father reads the newspaper but cannot understand the point when she mimics his actions. He wears glasses but they seem to serve no purpose when she tries them.   

In all these respects, Helen's intelligence serves her well as she is inquisitive and knows there is more to this "silence and darkness" than she would otherwise be exposed to. However, this also intensifies the infuriation and feelings of defeat when she does not make herself understood. Helen has almost violent outbursts regularly "sometimes hourly." She is aware of speech and touches the mouths of those "conversing" but when she tries it, no result; to the point that she becomes "vexed" and "I kicked and screamed until I was exhausted."

Helen's doll, Nancy, "the helpless victim of my outbursts of temper and of affection" has a cradle and one day, Helen discovers her baby sister Mildred sleeping there. With no thought for consequences, she tips the baby out. The day is saved of course because Helen's mother is not far away and catches Mildred. Helen admits that "in the valley of twofold solitude we know little of the tender affections that grow out of endearing words and actions and companionship. "

Even when Ann Sullivan arrives to "set my spirit free" and Helen's  world becomes so much bigger than just the "silent, aimless, dayless life ", Helen still takes satisfaction from upsetting others. Helen locks Ann Sullivan in a room and will not return the key and Helen's father has to help Ann out through a window - "much to my delight."

It is Helen's perseverance and the support of those who surrounded her that minimizes her tantrums which become insignificant in terms of the woman she becomes. They are however no less important in her development and in creating her whole person with an understanding of humanity that any person may find difficult to grasp. 



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The Story of My Life

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