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The Story of My Life

by Helen Keller

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Do you agree with Helen's equation of knowledge with happiness, not power? Why?

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It is difficult to debate what Helen Keller perceived to be reality.  In her own narrative, she equates knowledge with happiness because it enables her to be understood.  Her voice is validated with knowledge and in being able to communicate with others, happiness is evident:

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.

I can see her point here in that the authentication and validation of voice is where individuals can find happiness.  Considering that she lived the earliest points of her life in total silence from others, with a voice that was not understood, it makes sense that she would consider knowledge and happiness would go together.  There might be another element here, though.  The idea of power could come in being able to be understood.  Helen finds happiness in being able to gain more knowledge.  Yet, there is happiness in being validated and  power comes from this.  Part of her own being is that she gains power from gaining knowledge and the ability to express it.  This construction of power might not be "all world encompassing," but it enables her to be understood more clearly.  In this, there is greater knowledge evident, and through this, more power over her own being is also evident.

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Do you agree with Helen Keller when she equates knowledge  with  happiness  rather  than  power, in terms of her autobiography The Story of My Life? 

Helen Keller, as revealed in her autobiography The Story of My Life, recognizes that knowledge presents her with many opportunities. She goes from a nineteen month inquisitive toddler into an unfamiliar world that "closed my eyes and ears and plunged me into the unconsciousness of a new-born baby."(ch 1) She  does have vague recollections "which the darkness that followed could not wholly blot out."

When Annie Sullivan arrives, Helen knows it signifies something important and it changes her world forever. Her educator wastes no time and before long Helen is introduced to the concept of words, the most famous being "W-A-T-E-R" which "meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free!" (ch 4)This reveals Helen's attitude, even from a young age, to education and its value and the absolute satisfaction that comes from it.

Helen is so inspired by the learning process that "everything that could hum, or buzz, or sing, or bloom had a part in my education" (ch 7)to the point that Helen learns "from life itself." All the joy Helen feels, she attributes to Miss Sullivan and "the best of me belongs to her—there is not a talent, or an aspiration or a joy in me that has not been awakened by her loving touch."(ch 7)

The limiting properties of the manual alphabet become more apparent to Helen as her life proceeds creating "a sense of restraint, of narrowness." Hence, learning to speak is very important and Helen recalls "my first connected sentence, 'It is warm.'" (ch 13)There is little to stop Helen now and "my soul, conscious of new strength, came out of bondage, and was reaching through those broken symbols of speech to all knowledge and all faith." She even finds joy in "practice, practice, practice." (ch 13)

Helen Keller is clearly empowered by her increasing knowledge and the result of this is a contentment and happiness. Those who equate knowledge with power are sometimes people who usurp that knowledge and take advantage of others for their own ends. Helen's is a very personal battle, benefiting her. This is why she decided to write her autobiography because she understands the "power" of knowledge in bringing satisfaction and in bridging and realising what are otherwise unobtainable goals.  

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