"We walked down the path to the well-house, attracted by the fragrance of the honeysuckle with which it was covered. Some one was drawing water and my teacher placed my hand under the spout. As the cool stream gushed over one hand she spelled into the other the word water, first slowly, then rapidly." (Chapter 4, pg. 11)
The imagery in Helen's writing is notable because it primarily relies on sensations of touch and smell, rather than sight, as do images in most books. Here, Helen describes the smell of honeysuckles drawing her to the well house, and the feel of cool water on her hand. This is the moment when she understands the mystery of language at last—that everything has a name, and that Miss Sullivan is painstakingly teaching all these names to her.
"I sat quietly beside Miss Sullivan, taking in with eager interest all that she told me about what she saw out of the car window: the beautiful Tennessee River, the great cotton-fields, the hills and woods, and the crowds of laughing negroes at the stations, who waved to the people on the train and brought delicious candy and popcorn balls through the car." (Chapter 9, pg 18)
This is the first of Helen's cross-country train rides up to Boston, and she describes it with rich details taken from Miss Sullivan's narratives of the world outside. While she cannot see these things herself, she trusts Miss Sullivan to be her eyes, and is able to describe them in her writing in such a way that a reader would never know she is blind.
"I liked to visit the Midway Plaisance. It seemed like the "Arabian Nights," it was crammed so full of novelty and interest. Here was the India of my books in the curious bazaar with its Shivas and elephant-gods; there was the land of the pyramids concentrated in a model Cairo with its mosques and its long procession of camels; yonder were the lagoons of Venice, where we sailed every evening when the city and the fountains were illuminated." (Chapter 15, pg. 30)
In this paragraph, Helen describes her encounters with the exhibits at the World's Fair. In this place, the far-off countries she had only read about in books are brought to life. For Helen, a girl who deeply values the world and its diversity, this is a fascinating experience. One of Helen's favorite subjects is geography, so it makes sense that she observes this global village with great interest.
The children who crowd these grimy alleys, half-clad and underfed, shrink away from your outstretched hand as if from a blow." (Chapter 22, pg. 48)
This is pulled from the paragraph in which Helen describes what she experiences in cities versus in the countryside. When she walks down the street in cities, she is surrounded by people for whom life has not been kind, living in poverty and hunger. This upsets her, because she longs to help others overcome their struggles. She describes these impoverished children in a way that allows the audience to picture them for themselves and deeply feel their pain.
The Story of My Life Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Story of My Life is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Johanna Mansfield Sullivan Macy, known as Anne Sullivan, came into Helen’s life on third of March 1887. She herself had been blind in her youth, and after her vision was partially restored, she decided to dedicate her life to teaching others like...