The Story of My Life
NCERT Solutions For Class 12 English
AUTHOR THE AUTHOR
Helen Adams Keller is regarded as the greatest woman of her age. She was one of those women who carve their own destiny by their hard work and struggle. Though nature deprived her of her eyesight and hearing, yet she acquired the highest university degree and established herself as a distinguished writer. She proved to the world that nothing is impossible even for a blind, deaf and dumb child.
Helen Keller was born at Tuscumbia (USA) on June 27, 1880, to Captain Arthur H. Keller and Kate Adams Keller. She was a normal child until the age of one and a half year. She had an inborn ability to imitate and learn. She was learning fast to speak. But unfortunately, she fell prey to a strange disease which deprived her of her eyesight and hearing. The disease was diagnosed as acute congestion of stomach and brain. The disease was cured but doctors could not bring back her eyesight and hearing. As she grew older the desire to communicate with other people grew stronger in her and she started communicating her ideas with the help of signs. Martha Washington, a six-year-old girl of her cook washer sole companion as she understood Habes language signs. She had over sixty home signs to communicate with her family. Besides, she was gifted with acute sensuousness. She could recognise which flowers blossomed in her garden and which fruit was getting ripe. She passed most of her time in her garden and was delighted in the midst of the various objects of nature.
Long Reading Text
In 1886, when Helen was only six years old, the important question before her parents was how to educate Helen. Fortunately, her mother was aware of Charles Dickens, American Notes of the successful education of another deaf and blind girl–Laura Bridgman. This made the task of educating her daughter easy and she made efforts to find out in what manner her daughter could be educated. There was no school for blind and deaf children in Tuscumbia. Her father took her to Dr J. Julian Chisolm in Baltimore who advised him to make contact with Dr Alexander Graham Bell who was working with deaf children at that time. Bell advised Helen’s parents to contact the Perkins Institute for the Blind. It was the school situated in South Boston where Laura Bridgman was educated. Michael Anagnos was the director of the institute. He was very kind to Helen. He persuaded Miss Anne Sullivan, herself visually impaired and then only 20 years old to become Helen’s instructor. Miss Sullivan agreed to it and arrived at Keller’s house in March 1887. Thus, there began a relationship between the two that lasted for 49 years. Miss Sullivan had her own peculiar way of teaching Helen. She used to spell the word on her hand. The first word she learnt was ‘water’. Her teacher spelt the word on her palm and released cool water over her other hand. In this way, Helen learned the names of different things. Then Miss Sullivan taught her with the help of Brail system. She began to speak words and framed short sentences. Helen travelled extensively in the company of Miss Sullivan. Starting in May 1888, Keller attended the Perkins Institute for the Blind. In 1894, Helen Keller and her instructor Miss Sullivan moved to New York to attend the Wright-Humason School and Horace Mann School for the Deaf. In 1896, they returned to Massachusetts and Keller was admitted to the Cambridge School for young ladies before gaining admittance, in 1900, to Radcliffe College. The great American novelist Mark Twain was one of her great admirers. He introduced her to standard oil magnate, Henry Huddleston Rogers, who, with his wife, paid for her education. In 1904, at the age of 24, Keller graduated from Radcliffe, becoming the first deaf-blind woman to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. She learnt Greek, Latin and French, besides English.
Her achievements were not only remarkable in the field of education but also in other spheres. She had varied interests in life. She was fond of reading books by great writers and learning foreign languages. She was a great lover of nature and visited places of natural beauty. She visited Niagara Falls and was delighted to be so close to it. Her picturesque description of the beauty of nature amazed people and they would ask in wonder what the beauty of nature meant to her when she could not hear the roar of the rolling waves of the famous Falls. In spite of being disabled, she knew how to swim and row a boat. She was equally interested in visiting cities. She would often visit the poor living in narrow and unhygienic streets. Sometimes, she would visit the theatre and enjoyed having a play described to her, while it was being staged. She had a wonderful memory and was gifted with the talents of creating something original. The urge to write something original impelled her to write a story—The Frost King, which turned out to be plagiarism of another story Frost Fairies, published before her birth. But it was not deliberate plagiarism. Later, it was discovered that the story ‘Frost Fairies’ might have been read to her and she absorbed it so thoroughly that it became a part of her recollections. When she sat to write her own story, ideas flowed to her so naturally that she thought that the story was the product of her own imagination. Helen Keller rose to eminence with the passage of time and became a world-famous speaker and author. She is remembered as an advocate for people with disabilities and numerous other causes. She was a member of the Socialist Party and actively campaigned and wrote in support of the working classes from 1909 to 1921. She joined the industrial workers of the world in 1912, saying that parliamentary socialism was “sinking in the political bog”. She wrote for the IWW between 1916 to 1918. At the age of 22, Helen Keller brought out her autobiography ‘The Story of My Life’. In it, she has recorded her life long struggle to overcome her disabilities. In 1908, she published ‘The World I Live In’ giving readers an insight into how she felt about the world. ‘Out of the Dark’, a series of essays on socialism was published in 1913. Her spiritual biography, ‘My Religion’ appeared in 1927. It was reissued under the title ‘Light in My Darkness’. It advocates the teachings of Enamel Sweden Borg, the controversial mystic who gave a spiritual interpretation of the ‘Last Judgment’ and ‘Second Coming of Jesus Christ’. Keller penned a total of 12 published books and several articles.
ABOUT THE BOOK
THE STORY OF MY LIFE is an autobiography of Helen Keller. It appeared in 1903. The book contains a description of the life and struggle of its author who was born on June 27, 1880, at Tuscumbia, a small town in Alabama. The book is important in the sense that it was written by a woman who became blind when she was only one and a half years old. It is really a miracle that in spite of being blind and deaf, she acquired education and received the degree of Bachelor of Arts. But still, the greater miracle was that she established herself as a prolific writer. She penned twelve books and a series of articles. An Interesting Autobiography The book is an autobiography which is different from fiction, yet the book is read like a novel. The author is successful in creating interest and curiosity throughout the book. There is no suspense, no turning point, no description of love in the book and yet it is one of the most popular books of the 20th century. Theme and Structure of the Book The book consists of twenty–three chapters, but a single theme runs throughout the book, i.e., how Helen struggled to overcome her disabilities. The first few chapters are devoted to the delineation of Helen’s birth, parentage and her strange illness. After it was declared that she was permanently impaired by the strange disease, efforts were made to find out how she could be educated. Doctors were consulted and educationists were approached and then a teacher named Miss Sullivan was found for Helen.
Helen had a strong desire to communicate with people living around her. The arrival of Miss Sullivan at Helen’s house was a turning point in her life. Miss Sullivan taught her how to speak. The subsequent chapters from chapter II to chapter XIX deal with Helen’s education. The author gives a vivid description of the difficulties and hardships that came in her way of acquiring education and skill in various other spheres and how she overcame those difficulties. She was admitted to various institutions and succeeded in getting admission in Radcliffe where she studied with other normal girls. Her extraordinary enthusiasm and strong will power paved her way to success and she became the first deaf and blind woman who graduated from Radcliffe.
Depiction of Nature
Another important feature of the book is the author’s love for nature and its picturesque depiction. Helen was very sensuous. She has given not only the names of various trees, flowers and fruits but a living portrayal of the beauty of hill stations also like Niagara Falls and roaring sea waves. She had the power to recognise flowers from their smell so she fully enjoyed the beauty and roaring sounds of Falls and Sea waves.
Main Events of The Story
1. Helen saw herself as a writer first as her passport listed her profession as an ‘author’. It was through the medium of a typewritten word that Helen communicated with Americans and ultimately with thousands across the globe. Since early ages, she championed the rights of the crushed and used her skills as a writer to speak truth to power. As a pacifist, she protested U.S. involvement in World War-I and as a committed socialist. She took up the cause of workers’ rights. She was also a tireless advocate for women’s suffrage and an early member of the American Civil Liberties Union. Her ideals found their purest, most lasting expression in her work for the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). In 1921, Helen joined AFB and worked for the organisation for over 40 years.
2. For those who once had no hope in life, Helen Keller became an inspiration to them. Although she became deaf and blind before she was two years old as a result of contracting suspected scarlet fever, she continued to accomplish a great deal. She was a very difficult child, given to tantrums, but Helen Keller’s breakthrough came when her teacher, Anne Sullivan, persisted in making her understand that touching shapes and letters were her means of communication. Helen Keller was the first deaf and blind person to graduate from college, finally publishing 14 books. She met with every U.S. president from Calvin Coolidge to John F Kennedy and wrote to eight U.S. presidents, from Theodore Roosevelt in 1903 to Lyndon B Johnson in 1965. She worked for many organizations for disabled and advocated against child labour and women.
3. Helen suffered a stroke in 1960 and from 1961onwards. She lived quietly at Arcan Ridge, her home in Washer last Connecticut, one of the four main places she lived during her lifetime. She made her last major public appearance in 1961 at Washington D.C, Lions Clubs International Foundation meeting. She received the Lions Humanitarian Award for her lifetime of service to humanity and for providing the inspiration for the adoption By Lions Clubs Foundation of their sight conservation and aid to blind programs. During that visit To Washington, she also called on President John F Kennedy at the White House. Helen Keller passed away On June 1, 1968; a few weeks short of her 88th birthday. Her ashes were placed next to her companions, Anne Sullivan, Macy and Polly in St.Joseph’s Chapel of Washington.
4. The name of Laura Bridgman and Helen Keller will always be linked together. Dr Sammuel Gridley Howe who taught Laura is the great pioneer on whose work that of Miss Sullivan and another teacher of the deaf-blind immediately depend. Dr.Howe always kept the scientific attitude.
He never forgot to keep Laura Bridgman’s records in the fashion of a laboratory worker. The result is that his records are careful and systematic. From a scientific point of view, it is unfortunate that such a complete record of the development of Helen Keller could not be kept. Laura always reminded an object of curious study. Helen Keller became so quickly a distinctive personality that she kept her teacher in a breathless race without time or strength to carry out a scientific study to meet her pupil’s needs. A definite goal passed as soon as a thing was done. The teacher didn’t look back and described her way.
5. Kate Adams Keller was the second wife of Captain Arthur and many years younger to him. She was a well-read woman from an intellectual family. She was very loving and careful to Helen from her early childhood. One day, her mother had just taken her out of the bathtub and was holding her in her lap, then she was suddenly attracted by the flickering shadows of leaves that dashed in the sunlight on the smooth floor. She slipped from her mother’s lap and almost a towards them. She fell down and cried for her mother to take her up in her arms. She Played an important role in shaping her child’s career.
6. Arthur Gilman (1837-1909) was a major figure in advancing higher education for women. Gilman was one of the founders of Redcliff college and served, as its first regent. He then founded The Cambridge school for young ladies where he shouldered the responsibility as director. Mr.Gilman learnt figure alphabet to give Helen instructions. He instructed Helen in English Literature. As he had a broad view of history and literature so his clever explanations made her work easier and full of pleasure. Mr Gilman was very humble and co-operative to Helen during the examination. He read all the papers to her by means of the manual alphabet. Mr Gilman was sympathetic so he spelt to her what she had written and Helen made such changes as she thought necessary. Foundation for the Blind (AFB). In 1921, Helen joined AFB and worked for the organisation for over 40 years.
The book, ‘The Story of My Life’ is very inspiring. It imparts to us two important lessons. First: Education is very important because it makes a man great. It gives us the idea that an educated man can do miracles. Second: If a man has a firm determination and strong will power, he can attain the height of success.