Who is Dr. Alexander Graham Bell, and how does he help Helen Keller?  

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Dr Bell, best known now as an inventor, was a doctor who helped people with hearing deficiencies. Keller first meets him when she is six years old:

He held me on his knee while I examined his watch, and he made it strike for me. He understood my signs, and I knew it and loved him at once. But I did not dream that that interview would be the door through which I should pass from darkness into light, from isolation to friendship, companionship, knowledge, love.

After the meeting, Helen wrote one of her first letters to Bell:

Dear Mr. Bell. I am glad to write you a letter, Father will send you picture. I and Father and aunt did go to see you in Washington. I did play with your watch. I do love you.

It was through Dr Bell that Helen found her teacher, Anne Mansfield Sullivan. But Bell became a lifelong friend of Keller's. In her autobiography, she mentions visiting the World's Fair in 1893, and how Dr Bell “went everywhere with us and in his own delightful way described to me the objects of greatest interest.” Later in her book, she describes visiting Bell at his laborotory on Cape Breton Island:

Dr. Bell is proficient in many fields of science, and has the art of making every subject he touches interesting, even the most abstruse theories. He makes you feel that if you only had a little more time, you, too, might be an inventor. He has a humorous and poetic side, too. His dominating passion is his love for children. He is never quite so happy as when he has a little deaf child in his arms.

The portrait of Bell that emerges from Keller's book is of a man possessed of great intellectual curiosity, but also great empathy. His ability to understand Helen, even when she is very young, and his delight in introducing her to new ideas and concepts, was a key part of her intellectual and emotional awakening.

 

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