The Story of My Life

The Story of My Life Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Explain how and why Helen’s emotions toward Miss Sullivan undergo a radical transformation between the time they first meet until Annie finally establishes a connection with the young girl.

    As a very young, handicapped child before Annie arrives, Helen Keller inhabits a dark world populated by suspicion, rage, and childish immaturity that she has grown used to openly expressing without fear of censor from either herself or her parents. Those intense emotions come from living in a world of silence and darkness. While her family attempted to communicate with her through body language, Miss Sullivan was the first person in Helen's life who made a concerted effort to teach her how to understand and be understood. Thus, while Helen was unsure about her at first, they eventually established a deep connection that strengthens as Helen matures and controls her emotions.

  2. 2

    In what ways is the quality of writing in Helen's memoir just as important as its content?

    Helen's autobiography is, of course, meant to tell the story of her life by relaying important events, interactions, and steps in her education. However, readers learn equally as much about Helen's growth through the quality of her writing. Helen writes beautifully, with descriptive language that paints a picture for her readers. This is particularly remarkable because of her long journey to achieve this stylistic success. It is reflective of her deep love of literature and the work that Miss Sullivan and her other teachers have done to bring her writing up to the same standard as people who can see and hear.

  3. 3

    How is Helen's education different from a typical child's, and what commentary does this make on the U.S. education system?

    Unlike most children her age, Helen did not spend her time sitting in a classroom with many other children, reciting vocabulary, or practicing writing on a slate. She learned through hands-on interaction with the world, with informal lessons perfectly catered to her interests and abilities. This, of course, is in part because she had one-on-one tutoring, which is not feasible for many children. However, Helen's success in a personalized education plan suggests that the U.S. education system at this time in history was too rigid and structured, and that children can learn far more from teachers who allow them to ask questions and experience life than from teachers who stick carefully to a given textbook or curriculum.

  4. 4

    Why was college not everything Helen hoped it would be? How did she benefit from it anyway?

    Like many students, Helen had an incredibly romanticized idea of college being a place of endless knowledge, a "universal Athens," as she calls it in Chapter 20. She believed her college education would be spent learning how to think and process the world, constantly asking questions. However, college, with its lectures and homework, was so fast-paced that Helen found she spent all her time just attempting to retain the vast amounts of information being presented to her. She rarely had time to think and extract meaning from her studies. Still, though, she appreciated her chance to attend Radcliffe, because it allowed her to study alongside girls her age with sight and hearing; it allowed her to maximize her potential. In the end, college for Helen was about exposure to different kinds of knowledge that she would eventually use and interpret throughout the rest of her life.

  5. 5

    Why was Helen so traumatized by the "Frost King" incident?

    When Helen was accused of plagiarism, she was deeply affected because she had not believed her mind could betray her in such a way. From the moment she began learning to communicate, Helen valued language and words above everything else, and took pride in being able to write and speak on her own. The idea that her mind could store and steal someone else's words without her awareness scared her, and for a long time thereafter she was afraid to write at all, for she was sure that the same thing would happen again.