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Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan 9th class English

Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan

(Helen Keller became ill at the age of two and was 
left blind and deaf. For the next five years she grew 
up in a world of darkness and emptiness. She was 
afraid, alone and without any anchor. This is the story 
of her meeting the teacher who would change her life.)
The most important day I remember in all my life 
is the one on which my teacher, Anne Mansfield 
Sullivan, came to me. I am filled with wonder when 
I consider the immeasurable contrasts between the 
two lives which it connects. It was the third of March, 
1887, three months before I was seven years old.
On the afternoon of that eventful day, I stood on 
the porch, dumb and expectant. I guessed vaguely 
from my mother’s signs and from the hurrying to and 
fro in the house that something unusual was about to 
happen, so I went to the door and waited on the steps. 
The afternoon sun penetrated the mass of honeysuckle 
that covered the porch, and fell on my upturned face. 
My fingers lingered almost unconsciously on the 
familiar leaves and blossoms which had just come 
forth to greet the sweet Southern spring. I did not 
know what the future held of marvel or surprise for 
me. Anger and bitterness had preyed upon me 
continually for weeks and a deep languor had 
succeeded this passionate struggle.
Have you ever been at sea in a dense fog, when 
it seemed as if a tangible white darkness shut you in, 
and the great ship, tense and anxious, groped her way 
toward the shore with plummet and sounding-line, and 
you waited with beating heart for something to 
happen ? I was like that ship before my education 
began, only I was without compass or sounding-line, and had no way of knowing how near the harbour 
was. “Light! Give me light!” was the wordless cry of 
my soul, and the light of love shone on me in that 
very hour.
I felt approaching footsteps. I stretched out my 
hand as I supposed it was my mother. Someone took 
it, and I was caught up and held close in the arms 
of her who had come to reveal all things to me, and, 
more than all things else, to love me.
The morning after my teacher came she led me 
into her room and gave me a doll. The little blind 
children at Perkins Institution had sent it and Laura 
Bridgman had dressed it; but I did not know this until 
afterward. When I played with it a little while, Miss 
Sullivan slowly spelled into my hand the word “d-o-
l-l.” I was at once interested in this finger play and 
tried to imitate it. When I finally succeeded in making 
the letters correctly I was flushed with childish pleasure 
and pride. Running downstairs to my mother I held 
up my hand and made the letters for doll. I did not 
know that I was spelling a word or even that words 
existed; I was simply making my fingers go in 
monkey-like imitation. In the days that followed I 
learned to spell in this uncomprehending way a great 
many words, among them pin, hat, cup, and a few 
verbs like sit, stand and walk. But my teacher had 
been with me several weeks before I understood that 
everything has a name.
One day, while I was playing with my new doll, 
Miss Sullivan put my big rag doll into my lap also, 
spelled ‘d-o-l-l’ and tried to make me understand that 
‘d-o-l-l’ applied to both. Earlier in the day we had a 
tussle over the words ‘m-u-g’ and ‘w-a-t-e-r’. Miss 
Sullivan had tried to impress it upon me that ‘m-u-g’ 
is mug and that ‘w-a-t-e-r’ is water, but I persisted 
in confounding the two. In despair she had dropped 
the subject for the time, only to renew it at the first 
opportunity. I became impatient at her repeated 
attempts and, seizing the new doll, I dashed it upon 
the floor. I was keenly delighted when I felt the fragments of the broken doll at my feet. Neither 
sorrow nor regret followed my passionate outburst. I 
had not loved the doll. In the still, dark world in 
which I lived there was no strong sentiment or 
tenderness. I felt my teacher sweep the fragments to 
one side of the hearth, and I had a sense of satisfaction 
that the cause of my discomfort was removed. She 
brought me my hat, and I knew I was going out into 
the warm sunshine. This thought, if a wordless 
sensation may be called a thought, made me hop and 
skip with pleasure.
We walked down the path to the well-house, 
attracted by the fragrance of the honeysuckle with 
which it was covered. Someone 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. I stood still, my whole 
attention fixed upon the motions 
of her fingers. Suddenly I felt a 
misty consciousness as of 
something forgotten-a thrill of 
returning thought; and somehow 
the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew 
then that ‘w-a-t-e-r’ meant the wonderful cool 
something that was flowing over my hand. That living 
word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set 
it free ! There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers 
that could in time be swept away.
I left the well-house eager to learn. Everything 
had a name, and each name gave birth to a new 
thought. As we returned to the house, every object 
that I touched seemed to quiver with life. That was 
because I saw everything with the strange, new sight 
that had come to me. On entering the door I 
remembered the doll I had broken. I felt my way to 
the hearth and picked up the pieces. I tried vainly to 
put them together. Then my eyes filled with tears; for 
I realised what I had done, and for the first time I 
felt repentance and sorrow. 
I learned a great many new words that day. I do 
not remember what they all were; but I do know that 
mother, father, sister, teacher were among them-words 
that were to make the world blossom for me ‘like 
Aaron’s rod, with flower.’ It would have been difficult 
to find a happier child than I was as I lay in my crib 
at the close of that eventful day and lived over the 
joys it had brought me, and for the first time longed 
for a new day to come.
(Helen went on to become a graduate cum laude 
from Radcliffe. She then devoted the rest of her life to 
teaching and giving hope to the blind and deaf, as her 
teacher had done. She and Anne remained friends until 
Anne’s death.)


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