Why did Keller compare the climbing roses of her greenhouse with the asphodels of God's garden?

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From an early age, Helen has always found the natural world to be a source of great comfort, a haven of peace and repose from the myriad frustrations of home life. She seems to have a connection with the world of nature that she simply doesn't have with other people. As she casts her mind back to the time before she lost her sight, Helen reminisces nostalgically about the climbing roses in her family's greenhouse—their cooling petals, their leaves and flowers, and the soothing effect they had upon her.

There's something almost paradisiacal about the Kellers' greenhouse, like the Garden of Eden. It's telling that Helen describes the roses as being "untainted by any earthly smell." It's as if they're so beautiful, so fresh, and so soft that they're not of this world. Little wonder, then, that in her effusive description of the roses, Helen likens them to the asphodels of God's garden. It's almost as if they're reaching up towards heaven.

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Keller was long fascinated with nature, and she found refuge in the natural world before and after the illness that made her blind and deaf as a young child. She writes that after she had a tantrum as a baby (before her illness), "I went to find comfort and to hide my hot face in the cool leaves and grass." She writes that she never found in the greenhouses of the North the beautiful kinds of climbing roses that grew in her house in Alabama. She writes, "I could not help wondering if they did not resemble the asphodels of God's garden." Homer's The Odyssey describes the afterworld as being covered in asphodel flowers. For example, Achilles's ghost walks across a field of asphodels to the afterworld. Keller's comparison implies that her roses were heavenly in appearance and scent. They are a cherished memory of the period of her childhood when she had sight.  

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