Helen Keller suffered a debilitating illness as a baby and as a result she spent the rest of her life deaf and blind. The Story of My Life traces her efforts to cope and to make the most of her life and circumstances which are changed forever with the arrival of Annie Sullivan on "the most important day I remember in all my life" (chapter 4). However, prior to Annie's arrival, Helen suffers many frustrating incidents and occasions when she cannot make herself understood or cannot get what she wants. Her "fits of temper" (chapter 1) cause her to seek refuge in the garden which gives Helen some relief from her frustration and disappointment because she familiarizes herself with the vines and the "tumble-down summer house" so all sense of independence is not lost. Her struggle to communicate is intensified by her own recognition that she is "different" (ch 2) from everybody else. When her mother has friends over, Helen realizes that they do not need to use signs to communicate and she mimics them in an effort to be understood. She says, "I moved my lips and gesticulated frantically without result" and this adds to her bewilderment. She even exhausts herself from all her screaming.
In chapter 3, Helen recalls how her failure to communicate only makes her want to express herself more and she becomes increasingly aware how inadequate the signs that she uses are in making herself understood. It is her failure to convey her request or demands that leads to "outbursts of passion." The more Helen tries, the more intense her outbursts until they are occurring almost "hourly." This makes her parents even more determined to find someone to help Helen and this leads them to Baltimore and ultimately to Dr. Alexander Graham Bell. The meeting with him is so significant that Helen describes it as "the door through which I should pass from darkness into light."