Because this memoir was written retroactively, both the author and the reader know something that young Helen, in the book's early chapters, does not: that this frustrated, argumentative little girl will grow up to be highly educated and extraordinarily successful. Readers have even more knowledge than the author, because Helen wrote this at age 21: they know that she will continue to achieve incredible things throughout her adult life, and will ultimately be honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian distinction in the United States. This is an example of dramatic irony, when readers know something the characters do not.
The Frost King (Situational Irony)
Helen wrote her short story "The Frost King" as a birthday gift to Mr. Anagnos, her teacher and close friend from the Perkins School. A gift is typically meant to further a friendship and to cement its closeness; it is ironic, then, that this very gift is what ultimately ended Helen and Mr. Anagnos's friendship, as he never truly forgave her for the incident despite it not being her fault.
Helen Goes to Harvard (Dramatic Irony)
When Helen was merely a young girl, early on in her education, she remarked on a visit to Massachusetts that she would not only go to college one day, but attend Harvard. At the time, a young deaf-blind girl announcing such a pipe dream would be laughed off; no one believed such a thing was truly possible for her, no matter how highly educated she became. It is a case of wonderful irony, then, that Helen did attend Harvard, matriculating at Radcliffe, the women's college affiliated with Harvard University.
Alabama (Dramatic Irony)
Helen's upbringing in Alabama is ironic, given the typical conservative values of the American South. Later in life, Helen would grow up with extremely left-wing political views, eventually becoming a member of the Socialist Party and a staunch advocate for working-class rights.
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.
Arthur H. Keller is the father of Helen and Mildred, and a captain in Confederate Army prior to his work as a newspaper editor. His family is descended from Casper Keller, a native of Switzerland, who settled in Maryland. Helen loved her...