"I have, as it were, a superstitious hesitation in lifting the veil that clings about my childhood like a golden mist." (Chapter 1, pg. 4) (Simile)
Helen describes her hesitation with writing down her own history with a beautiful simile that compares her hazy memories of childhood to a veil of golden mist. She describes the mist as golden—a warm, positive adjective—in order to emphasize that her recollections of childhood all blur together in a positive haze of learning and experiencing. It is easy to forget the more negative moments of childhood, and she worries that she will not be telling her story accurately.
"Love is something like the clouds that were in the sky before the sun came out. You cannot touch the clouds, you know; but you feel the rain and know how glad the flowers and the thirsty earth are to have it after a hot day. You cannot touch love either; but you feel the sweetness it pours into everything." (Chapter 6, pg. 14) (Simile)
In order to explain abstract concepts like love to Helen, Miss Sullivan must use simile to make the young girl understand the things that she cannot physically touch. Here, she compares love to clouds in the sky: she cannot touch them, but she knows they are there, and that they bring beauty and life to the world. In this way, Helen comes to understand love.
"What a joy to talk with other children in my own language! Until then I had been like a foreigner speaking through an interpreter. In the school where Laura Bridgman was taught I was in my own country." (Chapter 9, pg. 19) (Simile)
While Helen benefits greatly from her one-on-one education with Miss Sullivan, she is invigorated when she attends the Perkins Institute for the first time and meets other blind girls. A basic human desire is to be surrounded by others who can truly sympathize with you, and only a person who is similarly handicapped can understand Helen. She describes the way it felt to meet the other blind girls through a simile about being a foreigner who finally returns to her own country, putting it in terms that her audience can understand.
"Again and again I ask impatiently, 'why concern myself with these explanations and hypotheses?' They fly hither and thither in my thought like blind birds beating the air with ineffectual wings." (Chapter 20, pg. 39) (Simile)
Helen uses this simile when explaining why college is not the "Universal Athens" she thought it would be. She expresses her frustration with being presented with different interpretations, hypotheses, and analyses for the materials she is studying, none of which is more right than any other, and none of which brings her particularly closer to discovering truth. It is frustrating, but ultimately, she benefits from this practice of thinking and analyzing the world in different ways.
"I try to make the light in others' eyes my sun, the music in others' ears my symphony, the smile on others' lips my happiness." (Chapter 22, pg. 50) (Metaphor)
Helen uses these beautiful, poignant metaphors to describe the way she derives happiness from the experiences of others, even when she feels isolated and alone because of her condition. Her friends mean a great deal to her because they can bring her joy through their descriptions of the world they see and hear, allowing her to experience for herself what her deafness and blindness will not give her. This is what helps her get through debilitating feelings of loneliness and silence.
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.
In a previous letter I think I wrote you that "mug" and "milk" had given Helen more trouble than all the rest. She confused the nouns with the verb "drink." She didn't know the word for "drink," but went through the pantomime of...