I had been assigned to read Helen Keller’s autobiography these past few days. I had heard her story, but never really understood the sort of importance that story had. She persevered in trying to communicate with people, despite her blindness and deafness, and eventually succeeded in doing so. There were a few events, you could say turning points, that helped her ‘escape’ her dark and silent prison.
The first of many has to be when she met her teacher and new friend, Anne Sullivan. Helen’s parents had tried many things to help her figure out a way to get her message across to other people. They even met up with Alexander Graham Bell in an attempt to make this possible, but to no prevail. She just could not understand what words had to do with objects. Well, this changed when Mrs.Sullivan arrived. She tried to spell words in to Helen’s hand to try to make a connection with things around her. After many tries, they finally made one happen. At a well, Anne poured water on her hand, and wrote on the other the word ‘water’. She finally understood that every object had a name, and this cool, wet sensation was called water.
The next thing she began to do was learn how to read. She was unable to use normal books for obvious reasons, so Anne started her education with something a bit different. She made cardboard panels with raised letters that Helen could feel the shapes of. This helped her identify sentences and figure out how to arrange words to make her own. This eventually turned into a game where she would associate words with their object. She finally was able to read a beginner’s book and almost immediately recognized many of the words inside. Thus she learned to read.
The final incident I shall write about is when she finally learned how to speak. Since she was young, she had always tried to make noises with her voice, which had helped keep her vocal cords in good shape. When she began, she started small, only learning a few sounds. Since she could not hear, these sounds came across as a bit mumbled or warbled. They, however, were not terribly off, and could still be understood. The first few sounds she learned were the sounds of M, P, A, S, T, and I. She was taught them by Miss Fuller, the principle of Horace Mann School. After hours a day of making sounds and words, she was finally able to say short sentences, although not entirely fluently.
It took a lot of time and effort, but Helen was finally breaking through the barriers of communication. She still, however had a lot more to go before she could talk with everyone she met. It is almost a miraculous thing that she was able to learn to read and speak at such a young age. But by ‘doing the impossible’, she was finally freeing herself from her prison of darkness.