> Important Questions for Novel Helen Keller’s The Story of My Life<
QUESTIONS ON THEME AND PLOT
Q1. Evaluate Helen Keller’s ‘The Story of My Life’ as an autobiography, describing the struggles and achievements of her life.
Ans. Helen Keller’s famous autobiography ‘The Story of My Life’ explores the challenges she faced as a deaf and dumb child and her struggles of communicating with the world. The autobiography was dedicated to Alexander Graham Bell. He had taken a personal interest in Helen’s blindness and deafness. Helen Keller also shows her gratitude to her wonderful teacher Miss Sullivan. Helen Keller was born on a plantation in Tuscumbia, Alabama, on June 27, 1880 to Captain Keller. She contracted an illness which left her deaf and blind. By the age of seven, Helen had over sixty home signs to communicate with her family. In 1886, Helen Keller’s mother sent her to Dr. Chisolm and Graham Bell. Bell advised her parents to contact Perkins Institute for the Blind. The advent of Miss Sullivan was the most important event in her life. Anne Sullivan arrived in Keller’s house in March, 1887. She immediately began to teach Helen to communicate by spelling words into her hand. Gradually, she learnt from Miss Sullivan the names of all the familiar objects in her world. The autobiography describes graphically Helen’s herculean efforts to get an education. She entered The Cambridge School for Young Ladies before gaining admittance to Radcliffe College in 1990. She graduated from Radcliffe at the age of 24, in 1904. She was the first person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. One of Keller’s earliest pieces of writing was ‘The Frost King’ (1891) at the age of eleven. There were allegations that the story had been plagiarised from Margaret Canby’s ‘The Frost Fairies’. At the age of 22, Keller published ‘The Story of My Life (1903), written during her time in college. Keller depended on books for pleasure and wisdom. She started with ‘Little Lord Fauntleroy’. She went on to read ‘‘Greek Heroes’’, La Fontaine’s ‘‘Fables’’, Howthorne’s ‘‘Wonder Book’’, ‘‘Bible Stories’’, Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare, ‘‘The Arabian Nights’’ and ‘‘Robinson Crusoe. In ‘The Story of My Life’ Helen also writes about her pleasures and amusements. Swimming, rowing, canoeing on moonlight nights and sailing were her favourite amusements. Helen Keller had a sixth sense – ‘a soul sense’ which could see, hear, feel all in one. She loved to visit museums and art stores. Music and theatre thrilled her. In the end, the autobiography describes the important persons whom she valued more than anything else in life. They were Bishop Brooks, Henry Drummond, Dr. Everett Hale, Dr. Alexander Graham Bell, Mrs. Hutton, Dean Howell’s and of course, Mark Twain. These were the persons and friends who had made the story of her life. They turned her limitations into beautiful privileges and achievements.
Q2. Describe the theme of Helen Keller’s ‘The Story of My Life’.
Ans. ‘The Story of My Life’ is based on the value of perseverance. It also glorifies the tireless and undying spirit of overcoming insurmounting hurdles and obstacles in life. Due to sheer perseverance, a deaf and dumb child Helen Keller learnt to communicate and interact with the outerward in a meaningful way. There is no doubt that at moments she felt helpless and frustrated but Helen was determined to succeed. She was a wonderful fighter. Helen Keller overcame the seemingly insurmountable obstacles and blindness. She became an icon of perseverance and untiring struggle throughout the world. The autobiography ‘The Story of My Life’ was written when she was only 22 years old. Her autobiography ‘The Story of My Life’ still motivates and guides thousands of those unfortunate blind and deaf children for whom there is only darkness and silence in the world. She lived in her isolated world until Miss Sullivan came to open up a world of communication to her. Anne taught her manual sign language, braille and lip-reading. Helen’s achievements are awesome. She had a thirst for knowledge and her love for learning and books was intense. It is quite amazing how she could lead a productive and purposeful life with all her handicaps. Another important theme of the autobiography is the message that even the blind and the deaf can lead a wholesome, purposeful and exciting life. Helen Keller set an example for all the physically challenged, especially the deaf and the dumb. She became the first blind and deaf to earn a bachelor degree. She enjoyed reading Shakespeare, Dickens and had good grounding in Greek and Latin. She read almost all the leading French and German writers. She loved swimming, sailing, canoeing, visiting mountains and beaches. She had an inner eye that could feel the beautiful sights, sounds, inner and smells of Nature. She loved the company of the famous and great personalities of her times such as Alexander Graham Bell and Mark Twain.
Q3. Describe the plot or the structure of Helen Keller’s ‘The Story of My Life’.
Ans.Helen Keller’s ‘The Story of My Life’ was published in 1903 when she was at the age of twenty two. It includes the story of her life and was written during her time in Redcliffe College. The story of Keller’s ability to communicate despite of her insurmountable handicaps immediately fascinate people. Her story gives us an idea of what it means to be both deaf and blind. She faces extraordinary difficulties, limitations and handicaps with courage and grace. The plot or the storyline of ‘The Story of My Life’ covers only her childhood and young womanhood. The story of Helen Keller’s life is incomplete as she had more than sixty years yet to live. Her story serves as a model for what the physically disabled can accomplish. The storyline starts with the mysterious illness that left her deaf and dumb when she was just one and a half years old. The advent of Miss Sullivan changed the very course of her life. The first five chapters describe how Miss Sullivan taught her words by spelling them into her hands. In this way, she learnt words like ‘‘d-o-l-l’’, ‘‘s-i-t’’, ‘‘p-i-n’’, ‘‘h-a-t’’, ‘‘c-u-p’’, etc. The next important step in her education was learning to read. She learnt to speak in 1890. The winter of 1890 was darkened by the charge of plagiarism against her for writing ‘The Frost King’.Chapters XVI to XXI describe Helen’s struggle to read various subjects and languages and to get an education. She became the first deaf and blind to earn a university degree.
‘The Story of My Life’ devotes Chapter XXII to describe Helen’s pleasures and amusements. Swimming, rowing, canoeing, sailing were her thrilling pastimes. Blindness and deafness couldn’t rob her of her sixth sense—a soul sense which would see, hear, feel, all in one. The last chapter XXIII is devoted to great men of letters and friends like Bishop Brooks, Dr. Hale, Dr. Graham Bell, Mr. & Mrs. Hutton and of course, Mark Twain. They made the story of Helen’s life and transcended her limitations to new privileges and opportunities.
Q4. Describe Helen Keller’s early life before the advent of her teacher Miss Sullivan.
Ans. Helen Keller was born on a plantation in Tuscumbia, Alabama on June 27, 1880 to Captain Arthur Keller. Her father was a former officer of the Confederate Army. Helen was the first baby in the family. The happy days didn’t last long. In the month of February came the illness that closed her eyes and ears. Except for some fleeting memories, all seemed like a nightmare. But during the first nineteen months of her life she had caught faint glimpses of green fields, sky, trees and flowers. The darkness that followed could not wholly blot them out. Her hands started feeling every object and observed every motion. She started making crude signs to communicate with others. A shake of head meant ‘‘No’’ and a nod, meant ‘‘Yes’’. A push meant ‘‘Go’’ and a pull meant ‘‘Come’’. At five, she learned and understood a good deal of what was going on about her. She could fold her clothes and wear them. She began to realise that she was different from other people. Her mother and friends didn’t use signs as she did but talked with their mouths. In those days, a little coloured girl, Martha, the daughter of her cook understood her signs. They spent a great deal of time kneading dough balls and feeding the hens and turkeys. Belle, her dog was her other companion. The family consisted of her father and mother, two older half-brothers, and afterwards, a little sister, Mildred. For a long time she regarded her sister an intruder as she had ceased to be her mother’s only darling.
Helen’s desire to express herself grew. Her failures to make herself understood was followed by outbursts of passion. Her mother’s only ray of hope came from Dickens’s ‘‘American Notes’’. She had read an account of Laura Bridgman who had been educated instead of being deaf and blind. At the age of six, Dr. Alexander Graham Bell advised her father to contact Mr. Anagnos, the director of the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston. Within a few weeks Mr. Anagnos gave a comforting assurance that a teacher, Miss Sullivan had been found to teach Helen. Naturally, the most important day in all her life was the one on which her teacher, Anne Mansfield Sullivan came. It was the third of March, 1887. And ‘the light of love shone’ on her in that very hour.
Q5. How was the advent of Anne Mansfield Sullivan, the most important day in her life? Describe the ‘immeasurable contrasts’ between the two lives which it connects’. How did Helen Keller react at her first meeting with Miss Sullivan?
Ans. Certainly, the advent of Anne Mansfield Sullivan was the most important day in Helen Keller’s life. Helen was filled with wonder when she considered the immeasurable contrasts before and after her arrival in her life. On that day she stood on the porch, dumb and expectant. She was like a ship at sea in a dense fog before her education began. ‘‘Light, give me light !’’ was the wordless cry of her soul. And the light of love shone on her in that very hour. She felt approaching footsteps and stretched out her hand. She was caught up and held close in the arms of her teacher. She had come to reveal the light of knowledge and above all, to love her.
Miss Sullivan gave her a doll sent by the little blind children at Perkins Institute. She spelled into her hand the word ‘‘d-o-l-l’’. Helen was at once interested in the finger play and tried to imitate it. When she was able to spell the words correctly, she was filled with childish pride and pleasure. In the days that followed she learnt to spell ‘pin’, ‘hat’, ‘cup’ and a few verbs like ‘sit’, ‘stand’ and ‘walk’. She understood that everything had a name. Gradually she came to know that a wordless sensation was called a ‘thought’. Somehow the mystery of language was revealed to her. She knew that ‘‘w-a-t-e-r’’ meant something cool that was flowing over her hand. The living word ‘awakened’ her soul. Each name gave birth to a thought. Helen learned a great many new words that day. These words made the world blossom for her, ‘like Aaron’s rod, with flowers.’’ For the first time Helen longed for a new day to come.
Q6. Describe the ‘slow and often painful process’ through which the deaf and blind child Helen Keller acquired the ‘key to all language’? How did she learn to spell and read words?
Ans. It was really ‘a slow and often painful process’ through which the deaf and blind child Helen Keller acquired the key to ‘all language’. Children who can hear can acquire language without any special effort. The first word that her teacher, Miss Sullivan spelled into her hand was ‘‘d-o-l-l’’. In the days that followed she learned to spell many words like ‘‘pin’’, ‘‘hat’’, ‘‘cup’’ and a few verbs like ‘‘sit’’, ‘‘stand’’ and ‘‘walk’’. At that time she even didn’t know that everything has a name. Then she realised that a wordless sensation was called a ‘thought’. She understood that everything had a name and each name gave birth to a new thought. Miss Sullivan had taught her to find beauty in the fragrant woods and in every blade of grass. She linked Helen’s earliest thought with nature. She made her feel that ‘birds and flowers’ and she herself were ‘happy peers’.
Helen Keller’s ideas were vague and her vocabulary was inadequate. But as she learned more and more words her field of inquiry broadened. One morning she asked Miss Sullivan the meaning of the word ‘‘love’’. Miss Sullivan put her arm gently round her and spelled into her hand, ‘‘I love Helen’. ‘‘What is love?’’ she asked. Miss Sullivan drew her closer and pointing to her heart said, ‘‘It is here’’. Once Helen was finding difficulty in stringing beads of different sizes. She was puzzled. Miss Sullivan touched her forehead and spelled the word with decided emphasis, ‘‘Think’’. In a flash Helen knew that the word was the name of the process that was going in her head. Miss Sullivan had a wonderful faculty for description. Helen was not interested in the science of numbers. But Helen learnt from life itself. When Miss Sullivan came, everything about her breathed of love and joy and full of meaning.
Q7. Describe Helen Keller’s stay at the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston.
Ans. It was Alexander Graham Bell who advised Helen’s parents to contact the Perkins Institute for Blind for her education. It was the institute where Laura Bridgman, a deaf and blind child had been educated. It was located in South Boston. Michael Anaganos, the director, asked former student Anne Sullivan to become Keller’s instructor. Miss Sullivan herself was visually impaired.
Helen made friends with the litle blind children. It was a unique pleasure to talk with other blind children in her own language. Until then she had been speaking through an interpreter like a foreigner. All the eager and loving children gathered round her and joined heartily in her frolics. They could read the books with their fingers. They were so happy and contented that she lost all sense of pain in the pleasure of their companionship. With the blind children she felt thoroughly at home in her new environment.
Helen learnt to speak in the spring of 1890. The impulse to utter audible sounds had always been strong within her. Mrs. Lamson, who had been one of Laura Bridgeman’s teachers came to see Helen. She had taught a deaf and blind child to speak in Norway. Helen resolved that she would learn to speak. Miss Fuller offered to teach her and gave eleven lessons in all. Her first connected sentence was, ‘‘It is warm.’’
Q8. When and how did Helen Keller learn to speak? How did she feel when she spoke to her mother and little Mildred after arriving home in Tuscumbia?
Ans.It was in the spring of 1890 that Helen Keller learned to speak. The impulse to utter audible sounds had always been strong within her. She used to make noises. She kept one hand on her throat while the other hand felt the movements of her lips. She was pleased with anything that made a noise. It was her urge to feel the cat purr and the dog bark. She was entirely dependent on the manual alphabet. But she was determined to use her lips and voice. Friends discouraged her. But the story of Ragnhild Kaata inspired her to succeed. In 1890, Mrs. Lamson returned from Norway and came to see Helen Keller. She told her of a deaf and blind girl named Ragnhild Kaata. Mrs. Lamson had taught her to speak. Helen resolved that she too would learn to speak. Miss Sullivan took Helen to Miss Sarah Fuller. She offered to teach her herself. Miss Fuller passed Helen’s hand over her face and let her feel the position of her tongue and lips when she made a sound. She was eager to imitate every motion and in an hour had learned six elements of speech: M, P, A, S, T, I. Miss Fuller gave eleven lessons in all. She was filled with delight and surprise when she uttered her first connected sentence. She uttered ‘‘It is warm.’’ They were broken and stammering syllables. But they were parts of a human speech. Miss Sullivan’s untiring patience and devotion helped her to progress towards natural speech.
Helen had leant to speak. At last, the happiest moment of her life arrived. The train stopped at the Tuscumbia station. The whole family stood at the platform. Her mother pressed her close to her trembling with delight. Every syllable that Helen uttered delighted her. The little Mildred seized, kissed her hand and danced. Seeing his daughter uttering audible sentences, he expressed his pride and affection in a big silence.
Q9. How did Helen write a little story called ‘The Frost King’ and how was it received by Mr. Anagnos of the Perkins Institute for the Blind? Why did Helen call the incident a dark ‘cloud’ in her ‘childhood’s bright sky?’ Was Helen guilty of plagiarism?
Ans. A little story, ‘The Frost King’ which Helen Keller wrote and sent to Mr. Anagnos, created a lot of trouble for her. It was like a dark cloud in her childhood’s bright sky’. For a long time she lived in anxiety, doubt, fear and shame. She was accused of plagiarism.
Helen Keller wrote the story when she was at home. Miss Sullivan described to her the beauties of the late foilage. Her descriptions revived the memory of a story which must have been read to her. Helen must have retained that story unconsciously. When the story was finished, she read it to her teacher. At dinner the story was read to the assembled family. They were surprised that Helen could write so well. It was her story and she had written it for Mr. Anagnos. She sent it to him on his birthday. Mr. Anagnos was delighted with ‘‘The Frost King’’ and published it in one of the Perkins Institute reports. It was discovered that a story similar to ‘‘The Frost King’’ called ‘The Frost Fairies’ by Miss Margaret T. Canby had already appeared. Actually it was published in a book called ‘‘Birdie and His Friends’ even before Helen was born. The two stories were very much alike in thought and language. It was evident that Miss Canby’s story had been read to Helen. Helen’s story, ‘The Frost King’ was a plagiarism.
Mr. Anagnosis thought that he had been deceived. Helen tried to explain her position. But he turned a deaf ear to the pleadings of love and innocence. He suspected that Helen Keller and Miss Sullivan had deliberately stolen the bright story of Miss Canby. Helen was brought before a court of investigation. She was questioned and cross-questioned. As she lay in her bed that night, she wept and her spirit was broken. In her trouble she received many messages of love and sympathy. Miss Canby herself wrote kindly.‘‘Someday you will write a great story out of your own head,……’’
Q10. Describe Helen Keller’s visit to Niagara in 1893 and her visit to the World’s Fair with Dr. Alexander Graham Bell.
Ans. The chief events of the year 1893 were Helen Keller’s visits to Niagara and the World’s Fair. She went to Niagara in March, 1893. It was a unique experience for her. It was difficult to describe her emotions when she stood on the point which overhangs the American Falls. She felt air vibrate and the earth tremble.
It might seem strange to many people that a blind and deaf girl should be impressed by the wonders and beauties of Niagara. What could that beauty and music meant to her? How could a blind and deaf girl see the waves rolling up the beach or hear their roar? To Helen Keller visiting Niagara was an uplifting experience.
During the summer of 1893, Helen Keller visited the World’s Fair with Miss Sullivan and Dr. Alaxander Graham Bell. She recalled those days when her childish fancies became beautiful realities. She saw many wonders from different parts of the world. All the marvels of invention, industry and the activities of human life actually passed under her finger tips. There she could feel the glories of India with its ‘Shivas and elephant gods’. There was the land of the Pyramids with long processions of camels. The President of the World’s Fair gave her the permission to touch the exhibits. Everything fascinated her, especially the French bronzes. Dr. Bell went everywhere with them. He in his own delightful way described to Helen the objects of greatest interest. All these experiences added a great many new words in Helen’s vocabulary. It matured her to appreciate ‘the real and the earnest in the workaday world.’
Q11. Describe Helen Keller’s struggle at the Cambridge School to be prepared for Radcliffe College. How did she succeed in her mission?
Ans. In October, 1896, Helen Keller entered the Cambridge School for Young Ladies. Her mission was to get herself prepared for Radcliffe. Even when she was a little child, she surprised her friends with an announcement. She declared that someday she would go to college—to Harvard. It was decided that she should go to Cambridge so that she could get to Harvard. At Cambridge her plan was to have Miss Sullivan attend the classes with her and interpret to her the instruction given. Her studies for the first year were English history, English literature, German, Latin, Arithmetic, Latin composition and occasional themes.
There were serious drawbacks to her progress. Miss Sullivan could not spell into her hands all that books required. She had another difficulty. She couldn’t get textbooks embossed in time. Each day Miss Sullivan went to the classes with her and spelled into her hand all that the teachers said with patience. She took a specialdelight in Schiller’s wonderful lyrics and Goethe. She read Shakespeare, Burke and the ‘Life of Samuel Johnson’. She took her preliminary examinations for Radcliffe in July 1897. She passed in everything, and received ‘‘honours’’ in German and English. In the second year at the Gilman school she confronted unforseen difficulties. The books in mathematics were not embossed in time. Little by little, difficulties began to disappear. For eight months she received coaching at home and the preparation for the college went on without interruption. She took her final examination on 30th June, 1899 but her dream of entering Radcliffe was fulfilled only in the fall of 1900.
Q12. Describe Helen Keller’s experience at Radcliffe. Why did she say, ‘But college is not the universal Athens I thought it was?’
Ans. The first day at Radcliffe was very exciting. She had looked forward to it for years. She started her studies with eagerness and hope. She felt within her the capacity to know all things. The lecture-halls seemed filled with the spirit of the great and the wise. The professors were the embodiment of wisdom. But soon Helen Keller realised that ‘college was not quite the romantic lyceum’ she had imagined. Many of her dreams ‘‘faded into the light of common day.’’ Gradually she began to realise that there were disadvantages in going to college.
Helen soon realised that one goes to college to ‘learn’ and not to ‘think’. In the college, there was no time to communicate with one’s thoughts. In the classroom she was practically alone. The professors were as remote as they were speaking through a telephone. The lectures were spelled in her hand as rapidly as possible. The significance and meaning of the lecturer got lost in her effort to keep in the race. Very few of the books required in the various courses were printed for the blind. She was obliged to have them spelled into her hand. As a result, she took more time to prepare her lessons than other girls. But there were exceptions too. Scholar like Kittredge would loving back Shakespeare ‘‘as if new sight were given to the blind.’’ She felt like the proverbial bull in the china shop. ‘A thousand odds and ends of knowledge came crashing about her head like hailstones.’ Helen discovered that ‘college is not the universal Athens’ she thought it was. There one doesn’t meet the great and wise face to face. One does not even feel their living touch. They seem mummified. But Helen never gave up the precious science of patience. She took her education as she would take a walk in the country, leisurely.
Q13. Helen Keller ‘depended on books not only for pleasure and for the wisdom they bring to all who read, but also for that knowledge which comes to others through their eyes and ears.’ Justify the statement highlighting her interest in various authors and their books.
Ans. Helen Keller had a passion for books. She started reading when she was just seven years old. From that age she had constantly ‘devoured’ every printed page that came within her reach. She didn’t study regularly nor according to rule. At first she read a few books like ‘Our World’ in raised print. She preferred reading herself to being read to. She began to read in good earnest during her first visit to Boston. She wandered from bookcase to bookcase in the library to pick up books of her choice. The words themselves fascinated her. Her true interest in books started from ‘Little Lord Fauntleroy’. Then she read ‘Greek Heroes’, ‘‘Fables’’, ‘‘Bible stories’’, Lamb’s ‘Tales from Shakesperare’, ‘The Arabian Nights’, ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’, ‘Robinson Crusoe’, ‘Little Women’ and ‘Heidi’. The stories in which animals were made to talk like human beings never appealed to her. But she loved ‘The Jungle Book’ and ‘Wild Animals’ because they were real animals and not caricatures of men. She loved antiquity and ancient Greece with pagan gods and goddesses fascinated her. Greek poetry suited her responsive heart. Her admiration for ‘The Aenid’ was not so great as for Homer’s ‘Iliad’. The stories of the Greeks were full of charm for her and the stories of the Bible didn’t interest her so much. Shylock and Satan were her favourite characters. Next to poetry she loved history. Her favourites were: Green’s ‘History of English People’, Freeman’s ‘History of Europe’ and Swinton’s ‘World History’. She loved to read German literature for its strength, beauty and truth. Goethe’s ‘Faust’ fascinated her. Of all the French writers she loved to read Moliere and Racine best. She loved to read Mark Twain and Scott. In a word, literature was her ‘utopia’. No barriers of senses could shut her out from the sweet and gracious discourse of her book-friends.
Q14. Reading was not the only pleasure of Helen Keller; her pleasures and amusements were many and varied. Describe her favourite amusements and pleasures as mentioned in Chapter XXII of ‘The Story of My Life’.
Ans. No doubt, books fascinated Helen Keller but books were not the only pleasure for her. Right from her childhood she had special love for the country and out-of-door sports. She learned to row and swim at a young age. She liked to contend with wind and wave. She enjoyed canoeing, especially on moonlight nights. Sailing was her favourite amusement. The memories of it was a joy forever. She discovered that every man has a subconscious memory of the green earth and murmuring waters. Even blindness and deafness can’t rob him of the inherited capacity of the sixth sense. There is ‘a soul-sense that sees, hears, feels, all in one.’ All sensations reached her not through the eye and the ear but her whole body was alive to them.
Next to a leisurely walk in the countryside she enjoyed a ‘‘spin’’ on her bicycle. She loved her dog companions, particularly her bull tarriers. Her dog friends understood her limitations and always kept close to her when she was alone. Rainy days kept her indoors. She liked to knit and crochet. She loved to frolick with children. She could manage to read their lips. Museums and art stores were also sources of her pleasure and inspiration. Going to the theatre was a rare pleasure. It was her privilege to meet a few great actors and actresses. No doubt, sometimes a sense of isolation enfolded her like a cold mist. But then, all of a sudden came hope with a smile and whispers. So she tried to make the light in others’ eyes, her sun, the music in others’ ears, her symphony and the smile on others’ lips her happiness.
Q15. Who were the people, acquaintances and public figures who had helped and guided Helen Keller to transcend her limitations giving her a new purpose and happiness in her life? How did she show her indebtedness to them?
Ans. In the last chapter of ‘The Story of My Life’ Helen Keller sketches the names of all her friends, and public figures who contributed in making her life happy and purposeful. Their influences sweetened and ennobled her life. Helen disliked hypocrisy in human relations. A heart handshake or a friendly letter gave her genuine pleasure. Helen Keller counted it one of the sweetest privileges of her life to have known and conversed with many men of genius. She enjoyed the joy of Bishop Brooks’ friendship. As a child She loved to sit on his knee and clasp his great hand. He impressed upon her mind two great ideas—the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. She remembered meeting Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes. She saw Holmes many times and learned to love the man as well as the poet. His gentle courtesy won her heart. Dr. Edward Everett Hale was one of her very oldest friends. She had known him since she was eight and her love for him increased with her years. He had been a prophet and the inspirer of men.
Helen Keller could never forget the contribution of Dr. Alexander Graham Bell in shaping her life. He had advised her parents to send Helen to the Perkins Institute for the Blind. She had spent many delightful hours listening to him about his experiments. He had a humorous and poetic side and loved children passionately. During her two years stay in New York she had many opportunities to talk with distinguished people. She met Laurence Hutton and Mrs. Hutton. He introduced Helen to his literary friends like William Dean Howells and Mark Twain. They were also gentle and sympathetic. Twain had his own way of thinking, saying and doing things. To sum up, Helen Keller remembered all those friends, acquaintances and public figures who made the story of her life. They turned her limitations into beautiful privileges and opportunities.
QUESTIONS ON CHARACTERS
Q1. Give a character sketch of Helen Keller as it emerges out of her autobiography, ‘The Story of My Life’.
Ans. Helen Adams Keller was an American author, political activist and lecturer. She was the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard. She set an example for thousands of deaf and blind persons to conquer their handicaps and attain miraculous achievements.
Helen Keller was born on June 27, 1880 at a plantation called Ivy Green in Tuscumbia. It was in Alabama state of the United States of America. Her father Captain Arthur H. Keller was a former officer of the Confederate Army. Her mother, Kate Adams Keller, was a cousin of Robert E. Lee. The Keller family originated from Switzerland. Helen Keller was not born blind and deaf. A mysterious disease left her deaf and blind.
The advent of Anne Sullivan was the greatest moment in the life of Helen Keller. The desire to express herself grew in her. Before the arrival of Miss Sullivan she used to communicate through few signs. Helen was a great fighter. She started learning to spell simple words lode ‘‘d-o-l-l’’, ‘‘pin’’, ‘‘hat’’ and few verbs like ‘‘sit’’, ‘‘stand’’ and ‘‘walk’’. She was thrilled when the mystery of language was revealed to her. She realised that everything had a name and each name gave birth to a thought. Through a slow and often painful process she progressed from learning to read to acquiring the skill of speaking. It was Miss Sullivan’s genius and Helen’s untiring devotion and patience that brought miraculous results.
Nothing could stop the deaf and blind girl from earning a bachelor degree from Harvard. But she had to wage a long struggle to get admission in Radcliffe College. She surprised the world when she became the first blind and deaf person to earn a bachelor degree. Helen Keller had a passion for reading. She loved ancient Greeks, Homer, Virgil, Shakespeare, Dickens. She was equally comfortable in French and German literature. Her pleasures and amusements were many and varied. She loved swimming, rowing, sailing and walking leisurely in the countryside. She loved visiting places. Her visits to Washington, Niagara and the World’s Fair broadened her knowledge and vision. Helen was fortunate to have the company of many great persons like Alexander Graham Bell, Mark Twain, Father Brooks and many others who shaped and made the story of her life.
Q2. Draw a character sketch of Anne Mansfield Sullivan highlighting her monumental efforts and patience to teach a deaf and dumb girl to speak and write.
Ans. Miss Anne Mansfield Sullivan had the greatest influence on the life, character and achievements of Helen Keller. She gave a new direction, meaning and purpose to Helen’s dark life. Miss Sullivan inherited all those traits and characteristics that go in making a perfect teacher. She was a picture of tireless patience and unending devotion. It was her constant encouragement, help and guidance that made Helen Keller first deaf and blind in the world to earn a bachelor degree.
It was Graham Bell who advised the parents of Helen Keller to contact the Perkins Institute for the Blind. The director, Mr. Anagnos asked a former student Miss Anne Sullivan to become Keller’s instructor. Miss Sullivan was herself a visually impaired 20 years old lady. It was the beginning of a 49-year-long relationship. The relationship evolved into Miss Sullivan becoming Helen’s governess and then eventual companion. Anne Sullivan arrived at Keller’s house in March 1887. She immediately began to teach Helen to communicate by spelling words into her hand, beginning with ‘‘ d-o-l-l’’ for the doll. It was Miss Sullivan who unfolded and developed Helen’s skills and possibilities. It was Sullivan’s genius as a teacher, her sympathy and loving tact which made learning so beautiful and interesting for Keller. She felt that her being was inseparable from her student. All that was best in Helen Keller had been awakened by the loving touch of Miss Sullivan. Anne Sullivan stayed as a companion to Helen Keller long after she taught her. Anne Sullivan married John Macy in 1905. She remained a constant companion to Keller till she died in 1936.View Helen Keller Summary