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The Story of My Life

by Helen Keller

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What does "my long night" mean in The Story of My Life?

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The words "my long night" in Helen Keller's autobiography The Story of My Life are used as a literary device to describe Helen's life as someone unable to experience sight or sound. It is a metaphor that refers to the darkness of sight and sound in the world in which she lives.

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In chapter II of Helen Keller's autobiography The Story of My Life, Helen talks about her life prior to Anne Sullivan. She explains the way she would communicate with her mother, which consisted on a series of shakes of the head, as well as pulls and pushes, that really did not convey any meaning; they simply meant that Helen wanted or needed something. With no system of effective communication that could have been commonly used in the family, the life of Helen was exactly as she says: "a long night" where she saw nothing, heard nothing, and was essentially trapped in her own darkness until her mother pleased her or made her happy in some way. In her own words,

I always knew when she wished me to bring her something, and I would run upstairs or anywhere else she indicated. Indeed, I owe to her loving wisdom all that was bright and good in my long night.

At this point in her life, Helen is only a little girl and lives an isolated life, her mother is literally the only person she could count on to feel safe and, in some ways, heard and seen. While the Kellers attempt to continue living life as usual, entertaining guests, and continuing with their social life, Helen continues to grow up with no real system of communication.

Just when the problem becomes a real issue, where communication is almost impossible, Anne Sullivan is called from the Perkins Institution to be Helen's teacher. Her strength of character, expertise, and patience are what made these two women make history together.

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