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The Story of My Life

by Helen Keller

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Characterization and Challenges of Helen Keller in The Story of My Life

Summary:

Helen Keller in The Story of My Life is characterized by her determination and resilience. Despite being blind and deaf from a young age, she overcomes significant challenges through her strong will and the support of her teacher, Anne Sullivan. Her story highlights her journey of learning to communicate and her continuous quest for knowledge.

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How would you characterize Helen Keller in The Story of My Life?

Helen Keller was a famous author and activist. She became deaf and blind due a childhood illness shortly before her second birthday. For the next several years of Helen's life, she struggled to communicate with her family and to adjust to a world where she could not see or hear. Her life changed when Miss Sullivan came to be her teacher. Miss Sullivan worked hard to help Helen. Finally, she had a breakthrough and she taught Helen to communicate using the manual alphabet.

Once Helen could communicate, the world opened up to her. She left home with Miss Sullivan to attend school. She learned to read, write, and speak. She traveled to many places and met a variety of friends. Helen then started to write her autobiography, The Story of My Life. She even went on to attend college.

Helen Keller was a person who was filled with determination. She loved learning wherever she went. She felt a special connection with nature. Helen enjoyed the ocean, the forest, and gardens. She liked to sail and go for long walks. Helen especially enjoyed spending time with her friends. She concluded her autobiography with the following words:

Thus it is that my friends have made the story of my life. In a thousand ways they have turned my limitations into beautiful privileges, and enabled me to walk serene and happy in the shadow cast by my deprivation (Chapter XXIII).

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What problems did Helen Keller face in The Story of My Life?

An illness when she was very young left Helen Keller unable to see or hear. As a very young child, she adapted to this situation, but as she got older and her brain continued to develop, her inability to communicate on a more than a very rudimentary level became increasingly frustrating for Helen. By the time she was six, she was having at least daily temper tantrums, and her parents were worried. At this point, her biggest problem was not her blindness or deafness, but a sense of being isolated and trapped with no way to express herself.

Learning from Miss Sullivan to communicate through palm writing solved that problem, but as is often the case in life, solving one problem leads to new problems. As Helen was able to communicate with society and became a celebrity, she was almost discredited when she inadvertently plagiarized a story, creating a huge scandal. Later, as she sought more education, she faced the problem of learning in a society that had not grappled with the idea of accommodations for disability. A few books were in Braille, but as she entered Radcliffe, Helen had to rely very heavily on Miss Sullivan to provide her with a method both to take and read lecture notes and textbooks by writing their contents into her hand.

Despite all the obstacles she faced, Helen Keller was grateful at the opportunities she was offered through education and Miss Sullivan's love and friendship.

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What problems did Helen Keller face in The Story of My Life?

Helen Keller faces problems of a magnitude that most of us would only contemplate in our worst nightmares. At nineteen months old, Keller suffers an illness that leaves her blind, deaf, and without any viable means of communication.

When she begins learning under the tutelage of Miss Anne Mansfield Sullivan, she initially faces another problem of not being able to connect words and objects. Sullivan helps Keller overcome this with an exercise involving running water over Keller’s hand and helping Keller to associate the sensation with the word.

Overcoming her inability to speak is another problem for Keller, and initially, her speech could only be understood by her teachers. However, hard work overcomes this problem and enables Keller to speak to her family, bringing great joy to everybody.

Keller pens a short story called “The Frost King,” and an investigation of plagiarism is launched, as her story contains remarkable similarities to another story which had been published years earlier. This problem is put to rest when Keller discovers that the story had been read to her and that she had obviously subconsciously retained the details of the story.

Helen encounters yet another problem or challenge while attending Radcliffe. Annie Sullivan experienced eye problems of her own, which it made it more difficult for her to give Helen the help that she needed.

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What problems did Helen Keller face in The Story of My Life?

When Helen Keller was young, she was struck with an illness that made her blind and deaf. As a result, she found it difficult to communicate anything other than her most basic wants. To solve this problem, Keller learned from her teacher, Anne Sullivan, how to express herself by writing signs on another's palm. This process, including learning the idioms and expressions involved in everyday conversation, took many years and a great deal of practice. She also learned to speak; she had spoken before her illness as a young child but had to learn again to use her voice.

She also had to prepare to enter Radcliffe, the women's school associated with Harvard. The problem was that Anne Sullivan could not sign all the words in the books Helen Keller had to read, and the books had to be embossed in Braille, which took some time. Her studies presented obstacles, as she had to use a Braille writer at times, and she had to draw mathematical figures on a cushion with wires because she couldn't see the figures on the board. It was also difficult for her to understand the Braille symbols for numbers and figures. She eventually overcame these obstacles and was admitted to Radcliffe.

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What problems did Helen Keller face in The Story of My Life?

Helen Keller faced many problems, which she recounts in her autobiography, The Story of My Life. All these problems center around being blind and deaf, which occurred when Keller was a very young child.

Initially, Helen had no language with which she could communicate to her family. She learned to talk a little before going blind and deaf due to illness, but she could no longer hear her family. This meant her behavior was often challenging. She threw temper tantrums, and her family members gave into her desires in order to avoid these. 

Annie Sullivan, her teacher, tamed the temper tantrums by not giving into them, and Sullivan worked diligently with Helen on developing language through finger spelling. Ultimately, Helen made that connection at the well, with water running over her hands. After her acquisition of language, Helen's behavior was significantly better because she was able to communicate. 

Even though Helen could communicate, she did have other challenges in her life. There was the challenge of learning about the world when she was missing two senses. Annie Sullivan had her experience as many things as possible. 

There were educational challenges. For example, Helen wanted to learn to speak. She received help from a speech specialist and did learn to use her voice. 

Helen ultimately went to Radcliffe, the sister college of Harvard. Annie Sullivan was one of the people who helped Helen "read" her text books by spelling the words into her hand. After multiple operations, though, Annie's eyes were weak, and she struggled to help Helen.

Helen Keller spent her entire life overcoming challenges and also reaching out to people and inspiring them. 

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What are some examples of challenges Helen Keller faced in her life from The Story of My Life?

Helen Keller faced many challenges, but she did not back down from any of them. Even though she lost her sight and hearing as a toddler, she did not let it stop her from facing the world on her own terms. She was a vivacious and precocious child. 

She had no teacher at first, so she knew no real language except baby talk and a few homemade signs. She noticed she was she was different from other people in how they talked to each other. She used signs, while they used their mouths.

Sometimes I stood between two persons who were conversing and touched their lips. I could not understand, and was vexed. I moved my lips and gesticulated frantically without result. This made me so angry at times that I kicked and screamed until I was exhausted (Chapter 2).

After Anne Sullivan came, Helen had to learn everything.  She had to learn how to speak with her hands in proper sign language and how to speak with her mouth so hearing people could understand her even if she couldn't hear herself. She also learned how to have a conversation. This was all in addition to what children regularly learn in school.

When Helen did go to school, it was a big deal. She went to school in preparation for going to college, which was an even bigger deal. Helen and Anne were not daunted. Anne had to work hard. She often had to translate Helen’s books because they were not in braille and interpreted her lectures for her. 

Even applying for college was difficult because the examinations had to be translated into braille since they would not let Anne translate them. It was very stressful for Helen. Despite everything, Helen was accepted to college.

I took my preliminary examinations for Radcliffe from the 29th of June to the 3rd of July in 1897. The subjects I offered were Elementary and Advanced German, French, Latin, English, and Greek and Roman history, making nine hours in all. I passed in everything, and received "honours" in German and English (Chapter 18).

As these incidents demonstrate, Helen Keller faced and overcame challenges throughout her life. She never gave up. She never let her disability get in the way of what she wanted to do.

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In The Story of my Life, which qualities helped Helen Keller overcome her challenges?  

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. 

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In The Story of my Life, which qualities helped Helen Keller overcome her challenges?  

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.

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How is Helen Keller portrayed as a determined fighter in her autobiography, The Story of My Life?

In The Story of My Life by Helen Keller, Helen reveals details of some of the most memorable events in the first twenty two years of her life having been left blind and deaf after an illness when she was nineteen months old. She lifts "the veil that clings about my childhood like a golden mist." (Ch 1) Many of her stories show a real fighting spirit as she struggles to understand her "silent, dayless life." (ch 2)Even from a young age, she learns "from life itself" (ch 7) which allows her to take each experience and learn from it rather than dwell on it.  She takes solace in the garden "the paradise of my childhood" (ch 1) where she often goes after a temper tantrum. She admits that, due to her frustrations, her tantrums become so frequent that they "occur daily, sometimes hourly." (ch 3)

 In providing a character sketch of Helen Keller's fight to succeed, an event that portrays this is the unfortunate "Frost King" incident. Helen sends her friend from The Perkins' Institute, Mr Anagnos, a story she has written. it is a gift for his birthday. Although Helen never recalls it, a similar story must have been read to her previously to the extent that her apparent "own" story is a plagiarised version of it. This has a profound effect on Helen and, as she remembers, "the winter of 1892 was darkened by the one cloud in my childhood's bright sky."(ch 14) 

Helen is devastated, embarrassed, confused and disillusioned and admits that "No child ever drank deeper of cup of bitterness." (Ch 14) She is only eleven and receives the support of her family although she loses Mr Anagnos' trust and friendship.  This has such a devastating effect on her that she doubts whether, had she been older, she could have coped. She believes "it would have broken my spirit beyond repairing."(ch 14)

Despite receiving assurances from the author of the original story ,Helen is "tortured by the fear that what I write is not my own" and will remain cautious and aware every time she writes in the future. The very fact that she does go on to write and lecture are testament to her indomitable spirit. The fact that she could have so easily have excluded this incident from The Story of My Life" is further evidence of her purpose as she recognizes its contribution to her "life and education."

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What was Helen Keller like as a child before her illness in The Story of My Life?

Before her illness Helen Keller was a precocious and active toddler. 

From a young age, Helen Keller showed signs of intelligence and spunk.  She says that as the firstborn, “I came, I saw, I conquered.”  Even as a very young baby, she was intelligent and dominating. 

I am told that while I was still in long dresses I showed many signs of an eager, self-asserting disposition. Everything that I saw other people do I insisted upon imitating. At six months I could pipe out "How d'ye," and one day I attracted every one's attention by saying "Tea, tea, tea" quite plainly. (Ch. 1) 

Little Helen was obviously very smart.  The fact that she was able to learn language so young turned out to be both helpful and harmful.  She knew some words, but she also maintained the babyish ones like “wah-wah” until she had Anne Sullivan to teach her the correct ones.  

She walked at a year old.  Helen’s illness would hit before she was two. 

Then, in the dreary month of February, came the illness which closed my eyes and ears and plunged me into the unconsciousness of a new-born baby. They called it acute congestion of the stomach and brain. The doctor thought I could not live. (Ch. 1) 

Helen did live, and the fever left one day as quickly as it had come.  However, she was left without the ability to see or hear.  Little Helen gradually got used to “silence and darkness.”  Doctors did not know if she would ever be able to see or hear again.  She never did. 

Since the family could not communicate with Helen, they had to find her a teacher.  Anne Sullivan came and replaced Helen’s baby sounds with real words when Helen was six years old.  Helen was intelligent enough to learn several words in one day, starting with “water.”  Anne Sullivan spelled words into her hand since she could not see the words or hear them.

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Based on her autobiography The Story of My Life, how was Helen Keller as a child and as a student?

In her autobiography, The Story of My Life, Helen Keller confesses to having been quite a wild child before she met her teacher Anne Sullivan. Her wildness is seen in the fact that she was prone to temper tantrums and used manipulation to get her way. But she also explains that her temper tantrums were a result of feeling angered by being trapped in a world she didn't understand and her poor behavior a result of having no way to learn morals.

One example she gives of a tempter tantrum due to frustration concerns the times she observed people around her moving their lips to communicate. After recovering from her high fever, as she got older, she explains that she felt a basic need to communicate with others around her and started making gestures to do so:

A shake of the head meant "No and a nod, "Yes," a pull meant "Come" and a push, "Go." Was it bread that I wanted? Then I would imitate the acts of cutting the slices and buttering them. (Ch. 2)

At some point in her early life, she realized that other people didn't use gestures to communicate. She used to stand between two people she knew were talking and touch their lips. She could feel their lips moving but didn't understand why. She tried moving her lips too but knew she wasn't communicating anything by doing so. As she explains, "This made [her] so angry at times that [she] kicked and screamed until [she] was exhausted" (Ch. 2).

She also explains that she spent all of her time with their cook's daughter her age named Martha Washington, mostly because she "seldom had any difficulty in making [Martha] do just as she wished" (Ch. 2). She further says she realized when she was behaving badly and felt something "akin to regret" anytime she hurt someone with her kicking but not enough regret to stop herself from behaving that way in the future.

However, all of this changed when she started learning from Sullivan. The lessons were very challenging at first, but, soon, Helen learned manners, how to do new tasks on her own, and how to communicate, which opened up the door for her to be able to understand kindness, compassion, and moral behavior.

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How was Helen Keller as a child? 

Since you included "describing words" as one of your tags, I assume you have an assignment to write your own description of Helen Keller's childhood. One of the first decisions you will need to make is what ages you are going to include in your paper.

Prior to her illness, Helen was apparently a healthy, normal, active infant and toddler. Suffering the loss of sight and hearing at nineteen months of age, a period when learning and communication based on observation and imitation is proceeding at an explosive rate for most youngsters, brought about a radically changed existence for Helen.  Her struggles to communicate and to make herself understood must have been enormously frustrating to her and to her family. That she gave vent to those frustrations through tantrums is not surprising.

The arrival of Annie Sullivan, shortly before Helen's seventh birthday, introduced an expectation of discipline that was new, confusing, and unwelcome at first for a willful Helen who couldn't understand why things had changed. With time and increased understanding, however, Helen and Annie began to develop the communication that allowed Helen to reestablish contact with the surrounding world. She became consumed with curiosity, eager to explore and learn about all that had been so mystifying when she had no one to explain it to her.

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How is Helen Keller depicted in the first four chapters of The Story of My Life?

Helen Keller recounts the drastic change brought on by her epiphany about language in The Story of My Life, and this change takes place in Chapter 4. There are, however, some characteristics Helen possessed even before she could communicate that did not change after the incident at the well. Her new-found ability did change her life circumstances, but not her essential personality.

The first characteristic of her personality is intelligence. From the beginning, Helen Keller was smart. For example, despite being blind and deaf, she figured out how to lock Annie Sullivan's door from the outside, how to hide the key from others, and then how to dispose of it in the well. This means she had to be aware of others' perspectives even though she had less sensory information to help her discover this than most children. 

A second characteristic is curiosity. The minute a stranger walks into her life, she doesn't hide herself away shyly. Instead, she explores who this stranger is and the kinds of things she has with her. She smells the new smells of a different human being and examines by touch Sullivan's possessions. 

A third characteristic is persistence. When Annie Sullivan tries to correct her breakfast manners, Helen pitches a fit that lasts all morning. 

All of these characteristics, when tamed by the new understanding of language she received at the well, served her well across her life. Curiosity and intelligence led her to do what few sighted/hearing women did, and that was to go to college. Persistence helped her to stay committed to getting her education even when doing so was extremely difficult. 

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Describe Helen Keller's character in chapter 2 of The Story of My Life.

Helen Keller wrote The Story of My Life when she was at college and it covers the first twenty two years of her life. Much is said about her struggles and triumphs throughout and an overall picture of a mature, responsible, motivational person so inflicted and challenged and yet so inspired to achieve great things develops.

Chapter 2 deals with Helen's younger days before Ann Sullivan "set my spirit free." (Ch 1) To create a character sketch, focusing on the event with Mildred her younger sister, will assist in understanding the kind of frustrations Helen has in not being able to make herself understood as she tries to make sense of her "silent, aimless, dayless life."

Helen takes up much of her mother's attention and when Mildred is born, when Helen is about five years old, she is aware that Mildred requires her mother's time and effort. Helen is not happy with this situation. Her mother is everything to her in her "long night" and allows her to be as independent as possible; something very important to the headstrong Helen. Things come to a head when Helen discovers Mildred in a crib reserved for her beloved doll, Nancy.

Helen is much like any young child, selfish and self- absorbed and she has not been able to develop a perspective of anyone else's world at this stage. It is therefore natural for her to simply tip the baby out of the crib. As always, Helen's mother is close by to avoid catastrophe and Helen learns a valuable lesson when she is "restored to my human heritage" and able to understand how precious human relationships can be.   

The fact that Helen shares this story in her autobiography, not only focusing on the positive aspects of her amazing journey, also creates an image of this truly inspirational individual who is able to "learn from life itself." (Ch 7) 

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