English 1, Lesson 50 – How Helen Keller’s Autobiography Affected Me

Writing assignment 500 words: “Has any piece of literature affected you in a major way? If so, explain how. If not, explain why not.”

    Coincidentally, this essay topic falls on the time when I am reading Helen Keller’s autobiography, which also happens to be a piece of literature that greatly inspired me. The book was inspirational because of the constant determination and hard work Keller displayed in most every aspect of her life. Even though at times it was exceedingly difficult, what with her blindness and deafness, Keller pushed through and succeeded. Despite her limitations, she managed to accomplish more than most of you reading this essay.

    At the age of 11, Keller wrote a short story called The Frost King, which was good enough that the head of the Perkins Institute saw fit to publish it. Soon after, another journal published it. Keller was accused of plagiarism for writing the story, but nonetheless, the story itself was truly remarkable, considering its author.

    By the age of 12, Keller was a gifted linguist; able to spell, read, write, and understand German, English, French, and even Latin! She spoke German every chance she got with her German teacher, Mrs. Reamy, at the Wright-Humason School for the Deaf in New York City. Keller learned Latin under the neighbor of a family friend. The man, Mr. Irons, was a good Latin scholar, sweet and patient in nature. He and Keller read books in Latin together and he tried to teach her arithmetic, but she could not grasp the concepts, and so they focused on Latin. The most incredible lingual advancement she made was in French because she did not have a teacher. Keller taught herself using descriptions of the words and sounds in a book. How she was able to perfect her pronunciation will always astound me.

    By the time Keller was 22 years old, she was an immensely powerful writer. At 23, she was a more potent writer than any other who ever lived. She wrote a total of 12 published books, including her autobiography The Story of my Life, and numerous articles. Many of them were about socialism and feminism, two movements that she was a firm supporter of.

    Keller met with many famous and political figures, not because she asked to (although I am quite certain she wanted to), but because those men and women themselves wanted to meet with her.

    Although Keller’s goal was to get into Harvard University, she wasn’t able to, instead attending Radcliffe College, the next best college a woman could go to in 1900. The academy hadn’t lowered their standards to let her in. They hadn’t gone easy on her, despite her deafness and blindness. She was allowed to use a typewriter, which was invented at the perfect time (1868), and she was able to read braille which was invented at the beginning of the 1800s. Keller struggled a bit going through her studies at Radcliffe, not having enough of her textbooks embossed in braille, not being able to hear the teachers, some of the teachers not wanting her to read their lips or not knowing how to spell with the hand signs Keller relied so heavily on. Her teacher, Anne Sullivan, was a major part of Keller’s education, but she couldn’t spell everything into Keller’s hand. Keller fought to keep up with her classes, typing her essays and reading her instructors lips when she could. She was eventually able to graduate with flying colors and became the first deaf and blind person to ever earn a bachelor’s degree in arts.

    Helen Keller’s story was one of struggle and triumph, over and over again. Keller lived for 80 years, her whole life full of interesting events, struggles, victories, and hard work and determination. I immensely admire her dedication and will to learn, and after reading her book, I am inspired to work harder and push myself to my limits, and to not be afraid of failure, as she wasn’t. Should I fall, I will get back up and run. I have never yet been more affected by a book as I am by The Story of my Life by Helen Keller. I hope to be able to accomplish half of what she did in her life.


6 thoughts on “English 1, Lesson 50 – How Helen Keller’s Autobiography Affected Me

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