This is the essay for the 45th lesson in the Autobiographies course from the Ronpaul curriculum. In this blog post, I will be covering the question of which were the key incidents that led her out of her ‘prison’?
This is a question that is directed to the autobiography “Story of My Life”. It is a famous autobiography written by Hellen Keller. The autobiography was so famous that it has been turned into 3 movies.
Keller didn’t actually go to prison, what I mean is a figurative “prison”. Something made Keller feel like she was in a prison. This thing was a disease. When Keller was 19 months old, she contracted a disease that made her deaf and blind. After this, she forgot how to talk. All the words she had learned up to that point she forgot, except one. This word was “water”.
These disabilities made it very difficult for her to communicate. Keller could only communicate using very simple hand gestures. When people didn’t understand what she was trying to say she would have tantrums. On most days she would have multiple tantrums per day. Her parents couldn’t do anything to fix this, but everything changed when Anne Sullivan started teaching Keller in 1887.
Anne Sullivan at first was “writing” words on Keller’s forehead using her hands. The problem was that Keller didn’t know the connection between words and objects. Neither did she understand that two separate objects were actually the same thing. For example Keller didn’t know that two dolls were actually related by being dolls. One day when Sullivan was teaching Keller, she wrote the word “water” on Keller’s forehead. Then, she put Keller’s hand in cold water. Then Keller realized that the word “water” was the same thing that she was feeling on her hand. She realized this because “water” was the only word she could remember. After this Keller started making connections with words and the objects she touched every day.
Abstract ideas were still a problem though. These ideas couldn’t be conveyed by touching something. The breakthrough to this problem was the word “think”. Keller was able to connect the process in her brain and the word. After the breakthrough, Keller kept learning more words connected to abstract ideas. She did this by discussing it with Sullivan over and over. They had to do this for several years until Keller understood all the connections between words and ideas. This slowly, but gradually made it possible to make it able for her to leave her “prison”. The next step Keller and Sullivan took was learning to read. They did this by having cardboard with raised letters in it. Later they also used a book with raised letters.
In 1890 Keller was able to communicate much better with people, than before Sullivan arrived. There was still one thing that was frustrating Keller. This was that the process of people writing one her forehead was very tedious. When she learned to talk, this last frustration went away. She could communicate much better with people that she knew. The speaking was still rudimentary, so she couldn’t talk to somebody she passed by, but talking was still a great accomplishment.