Helen Keller Critical Context - Essay

Eileen Bigland

Critical Context

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Bigland’s biography was written for the older teenager. In fact, the language of her work is appropriate even for adults. Consequently, her extensive paraphrasing of other authors raises questions in the reader’s mind as to her purpose in writing Helen Keller. Rather than distilling information for readers, she merely rephrases others’ works while vying for the attention of essentially the same audience. Indeed, in many of her paraphrases, only a few words separate her writing from those of her predecessors. Her audience would be better served reading the original works, particularly because they tend to be more finely crafted than Bigland’s book. Keller’s The Story of My Life, in particular, is notably more eloquent and informative than Bigland’s biography and is more suitable for the older teenager. Keller’s later works may also be of interest to the young reader.

Because Keller’s The Story of My Life was written when she was still in college, it is incomplete, ending when Keller was a young woman. Therefore, Bigland patterns the first half of her book after Keller’s work while turning to Brooks’s biography for the remainder.

The story of Keller’s legendary achievements will continue to appeal to readers of all ages. Bigland’s biography, however, contributes little of interest for the intelligent student, who might be directed more profitably to reading about Keller’s life in her own eloquent words rather than in Bigland’s paraphrasing.