The name Helen Keller is well-known even by children and Helen, the deaf and mute girl who has inspired so many in her book The Story of My Life, sets out the difficulties, challenges and successes of her life up to age twenty one. She readily admits that her life was a "silent, aimless, dayless life" and that at first she does not understand relationships, family or emotion because "when we walk in the valley of twofold solitude we know little of the tender affections that grow out of endearing words and actions and companionship" (chapter 2). It is through her family's patience and perseverance and Annie Sullivan's dedication that Helen's life changes for ever when she understands that "W-A-T-E-R" is the name given to that "wonderful, cool something ... that awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free" (chapter 4).
It is Helen's perseverance and acceptance of her situation which ensures that she takes every challenge in hand and "learns from life itself" (ch 7). Helen knows that "the deaf child does not learn in a month, or even in two or three years" and rather than allowing her disabilities to overwhelm her, she draws strength even from terrifying experiences such as climbing trees and finding herself in the throes of a thunder storm and swimming when first she first slips in the sea and goes under water. She never gives up. Helen reveals that however "painful the process...the result is wonderful" (ch 6).
It is Helen's positive attitude that ensures that she feels privileged rather than disadvantaged when she meets with others. A good example of this character trait is when she visits The Perkins' Institute and feels "joy to talk with other children in my own language" (ch 9).
Recognizing the contribution of every occurrence is something that sets Helen apart and shows great humility because whereas others would shy away from unpleasantness, Helen sees it as part of her education. Even the Frost King incident which left Helen devastated and bewildered and which irreparably damaged her friendship with Mr. Anagnos receives a mention in her book as it has contributed to her development and Helen wants others not to glamorize her life but to recognize that all her experiences, her family and friends and her difficulties have made her a stronger person and have helped make her a well-rounded individual.
Perhaps the most important quality we see in Keller's Story of My Life is perserverence, even stubbornness. We know, of course, that Keller faced almost unimaginable obstacles, but throughout the story, she was unwilling to let them keep her from achieving her goals. As she puts it:
My work was practice, practice, practice. Discouragement and weariness cast me down frequently; but the next moment the thought that I should soon be at home and show my loved ones what I had accomplished spurred me on, and I eagerly looked forward to their pleasure in my achievement.
She was also, of course, quite fearless, never shying away from participating in a society which was very difficult for her to participate in. She attends, for example, Radcliffe College, becoming the first blind and deaf person to earn a bachelor's degree. This also speaks to another quality of Keller's. She (and her family and friends, who made it possible) recognized the importance of education in overcoming her obstacles. She would go on to become a tireless advocate for the disabled as well as (though it is not much discussed in her autobiography) a fierce political radical.