Black and white illustration of Helen Keller

The Story of My Life

by Helen Keller

Start Free Trial

What fears did Helen have when starting to write The Story of My Life?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Helen was nervous about writing a biography because she didn’t want to look back on the events of his childhood too closely.

We often have fond memories of our childhood that may or may not be accurate.  Helen’s fear when writing her autobiography was that she would look too closely at the events of her youth, and things would not be as she remembered them.  Sometimes we remember with rose-colored glasses.

It is with a kind of fear that I begin to write the history of my life. I have, as it were, a superstitious hesitation in lifting the veil that clings about my childhood like a golden mist. (Ch. 1)

This superstition was that the magic of childhood would be lost by examining the memories as an adult. You may realize that things were not perfect, or not as good as they seemed.  Some things may not have happened as you remembered.

Helen also found that she did not have as many early memories as she would like, except for big events, because at the time she was writing her memories of more recent events were stronger than those of early events.

Besides, many of the joys and sorrows of childhood have lost their poignancy; and many incidents of vital importance in my early education have been forgotten in the excitement of great discoveries. (Ch. 1)

Despite all this, Helen Keller still wrote the story of her life.  She believed that people would be interested in hearing about how she overcame the challenges of being blind and deaf.  Her memories of learning how to communicate and cope with her limitations were part of her story, alongside the memories of growing up that everyone has regardless of whether they can see or hear.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In The Story of My Life, why did Helen experience "an impish fear... and disquietude" while writing?

Having recovered from a debilitating illness as a baby, Helen Keller is left blind and deaf. Her parents are often "grieved and perplexed" and search endlessly for ways to help her, as revealed in The Story of My Life, Helen's autobiography. To show her appreciation for all the support she receives and for the opportunities presented to her by many "friends," this book serves as a motivational tool to show that no obstacle is too much to overcome.

Annie Sullivan, Helen's beloved teacher, has helped Helen in her efforts and "My soul, conscious of new strength, came out of bondage" (ch 13) and she has even learnt the basics of speech. Helen, encouraged by Miss Sullivan's descriptions of the "late foliage"(ch 14), writes a story entitled "The Frost King" for Mr Anagnos of The Perkins Institute which is very well received. Unfortunately, it turns out that she must have heard the story of the "Frost Fairies" by Margaret Canby to the point that she is accused of plagiarizing it. Helen is hugely affected by this and "the thought of those dreadful days chills my heart"(ch 14) and despite Margaret Canby's graciousness, and the fact that Helen uses this experience as part of her learning "The thought that what I wrote might not be absolutely my own tormented me."(ch 15) It is this "impish fear" that  "clutched my hand, so that I could not write any more that day. And even now I sometimes feel the same uneasiness and disquietude."

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on