The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
Mass Market Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Bantam Classics (May 1, 1990)
By Jessica Stewart, Courier Editor-in-Chief
“Gradually I got used to the silence and darkness that surrounded me and forgot that it had ever been different, until she came—my teacher—who was to set my spirit free. But during the first nineteen months of my life I had caught glimpses of broad, green fields, a luminous sky, trees and flowers which the darkness that followed could not wholly block out.”
The Story of My Life is Helen Keller’s autobiography, which covers her life up until age twenty-two. It explains her extraordinary circumstances and how she deals with her disabilities. It also discusses who she is as a person, her assorted faults and strengths, and her many passions. It was an interesting read, although there were some parts that seemed to drag on a bit.
Helen caught a dreadful illness while she was still a small child, and, while her doctor was unable to diagnose her sickness, he did predict that she would not survive it. Fortunately, she did, but at a price: she lost both her sense of sight and her sense of hearing in one fell blow. Her loving parents had no idea how to help her, although they tried. Helen developed her own signs to express her desires, but she was extremely limited by her inability to either see or hear and often threw terrible tantrums.
Then, when she was seven, Anne Sullivan became her teacher and constant companion. Initially, Anne had difficulty teaching Helen because Helen could not grasp the real meanings behind the words she was learning. Then, her whole world was turned upside-down when she learned the word “water”. Helen loved learning how to communicate in this way, especially since it enabled her to really express herself.
Another turning point in her life was when she wrote “The Frost King” for her dear friend Mr. Anagnos. She had no idea that she had actually heard the story before, and it came as a horrible shock to her when she was accused of plagiarism. Despite her innocence, she lost Mr. Anagnos’ friendship. Even worse, she began to doubt herself, and her own thoughts, always wondering whether they truly were her own thoughts, or if they were actually somebody else’s.
Despite this dark spot in her childhood, Helen continued to soak up knowledge, and, after many hours and much work, she learned how to talk. She attended a preparatory school, intending to go to college despite her disabilities. Her dream came true when she entered Radcliffe College, Anne Sullivan at her side.
Throughout her life, despite her lack of sight and hearing, Helen indulged in many “normal” passions. She loved reading, and did so as often as she could. She also adored nature and the many assorted sports that enhanced her enjoyment of it. She rode bicycles, hiked, and rowed. Most of all, though, Helen loved learning, and soaked up as much knowledge as she could. She overcame her disabilities and enjoyed the first few decades of her life to the fullest.
Helen’s account of her life and the many obstacles she had to overcome showed me how difficult it is for a person to survive in a world where people depend most of all on sight and sound. It was interesting to learn about Helen’s life from her perspective. The only things I did not enjoy were her constant references to nature and the Bible. It seemed like she was trying too hard to impress the reader with her intellect. I also thought she should have focused a bit more on the hardships she encountered.. She writes with so much enthusiasm and optimism that it seemed like her life was a walk in the park, when I know for a fact it was not. She should have given the reader a real sense of how difficult it is to survive in a world of sight and sound while blind and deaf.
Otherwise, I really liked this book. It gave me insight into an amazing woman. When I read about her in history books and the like, she always seemed a bit flat, and she never seemed like a real person. After reading her autobiography, my mind has been able to give her character depth and personality. I would definitely recommend this book, but only to those interested in Helen and her early life.