There are many famous persons influencing the world from generation to generation in the American history, one of who is Helen Keller. In the 19th and 20th century respectively, she created her own miracles through her permanent struggle against her misfortune, even today there are millions of people who have been influenced by her extraordinary life experience and the spirit reflected by their prominent achievement. Helen managed to overcome the double handicaps of blindness and deafness and took an active part in the life of the world. The book Three Days to See is considered one of her representative works, which gives a general account of her mind and the call of the soul.
Three Days to See reflects some aspects, which led to its success and made it benefited from everlasting perseverance. Helen Keller is pursuing for a better and normal life, life means everlasting perseverance for her. Helen Keller managed to overcome all kinds of difficulties and grasped five different languages. The beginning step was extremely hard for her to make an articulate speech, but she screwed up her courage to practice much more diligently. It turned out that her successful career benefited from her speech. When discussing famous persons in the history, it can hardly be avoided to taking about their social background. In accordance with her autobiographies, readers can find out that Helen Keller has some special aspects. All these can boil down to different social environment and personal beliefs. Together with Anne Sullivan, Helen had visited numerous famous people, who had overwhelming influence on her later life. Helen’s frequent speech and charitable career led to her optimistic attitude and open-minded characteristics. The distinctive life experiences had given Helen different natures and unique outlooks on the adversity, which had a good influence on her later life. To some extent, Helen’s life experience could be considered to be a gigantic treasure house.
This thesis focuses on three main women in Three Days to See: Helen Keller, Anne Sullivan and Kate Heller. All of these women have some special shinning points, which deserve readers to learn from generation to generation. This thesis is made up of six parts: the first part is a brief introduction of Helen Keller and her novel Three Days to See. Then the second part is the analysis of Helen Keller from four aspects: her love for life, her persistence in learning new things and her devotion in charity activities. After that, the third part is about Helen Keller’s private tutor Anne Sullivan, which focuses on her qualities of dedicated and patient, professional and responsible. Then the next pat of this thesis is about Kate Heller’s decisive and her positive attitude towards life. Based on the analysis of three main women in Three Days to See, the fourth part of this thesis is enlightenment from them. Last but not least, the fifth part is the conclusion of the whole thesis.
1. Analysis of Helen
1.1. Love life
Helen had created miracles based on her relentless struggle with adversity, she accepted the challenge of life and embraced the world with whole compassion and aspiration, and therefore she successfully composed the psalm of life. One could achieve nothing only having a dream without action. And the main reasons why Helen has been remembered are that she had successfully actualized her dreams into action and cherished her once-only life experience. Life is so valuable that it needs people take full advantage of the life sometimes at cost of their life. Only such a way could they compose the psalm of life. In the novel of Three Days to See, Helen said How was it possible, I asked myself, to walk for an hour through the woods and see nothing worthy of note? I who cannot see find hundreds of things to interest me through mere touch. I feel the delicate symmetry of a leaf. I pass my hands lovingly about the smooth skin of a silver birch, or the rough, shaggy bark of a pine. In the spring I touch the branches of trees hopefully in search of a bud the first sign of awakening Nature after her winter’s sleep. I feel the delightful, velvety texture of a flower, and discover its remarkable convolutions; and something of the miracle of Nature is revealed to me. Occasionally, if I am very fortunate, I place my hand gently on a small tree and feel the happy quiver of a bird in full song. I am delighted to have the cool waters of a brook rush thought my open finger. To me a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug. To me the page ant of seasons is a thrilling and unending drama, the action of which streams through my finger tips.
For the above, it is not difficult to find out that although Helen was suffering and torturing from unimaginable tribulations during her life, she still takes life for granted and know one day they must die, but she usually pictures that day as far as in the future, the life is all but unimaginable when she is in buoyant health, and she seldom thinks the values of the life. The days stretch out in an endless vista. So she goes about her petty tasks, hardly aware of her listless attitude toward life. Helen extraordinary pursuit of her dream is detailed portrayed in Three Days to See. Her determination to overcome handicapped hinder is never forgotten by people.
In the complicated and complex world, most people make themselves busy in earning money for a living and they ignore what they really want in the depth of their heart. They only think how they earn money for a living to enjoy a comfortable life despite of their health. Provided each human being were stricken blind and deaf for a few days at some time during his early adult life, it would be a blessing. Darkness would make him more appreciate of sight, silence would teach him the joys of sound, and abnormal state of mind would emphasize the importance of a clear and sober mind. In addition, the soul calls for one’s efforts to strive for happiness. Perhaps one can not control his job, but he could make other changes in his life. To some extent, determination is regarded as a motivation to encourage suffering people to move ahead. Helen was famous for her everlasting perseverance, for she always believes that life is limited but one’s spirit stature would be eternal in the history of the world, history is fair and it has granted them with great reputation in the whole world.
1.2. Persistence in learning
Helen Adams Keller was born on 27June 1880 in Tuscumbia, a small rural town in Northwest Alabama, USA. She was an American political activist and lecturer, and she was the first deaf blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in Harvard University. As a Prolific author, Keller was well traveled and was outspoken in her opposition to war. A member of the Socialist Party of America and the Wobblier, she campaigned for women’s suffrage, workers’ rights, and socialism, as well as many other leftist causes. How could a disabled people like her get such great achievement during her life? One of the significant points is her persistence in learning.
Three Days to See can be seen as Helen’s biography. In this novel, Helen describes her life. Helen’s biography imitates real life and describes most of her life based on facts. There is nothing artificial in her language. After reading several different version of Helen’s biography written by others, the author of the paper can feel the sincerity of her. There is little difference among all the works, all the important events about her are nearly the same. However, fiction is inevitable in some little details too “In her account of her early education, Miss Keller is not giving a scientifically accurate record of her life,…That is why her teacher’s records may be found to differ in some particulars from Miss Keller’s account.”(John Albert Macy,2008: 244) Actually, it is really difficult for a blind and deaf person to recall all her experiences in her childhood accurately; therefore, the differences are acceptable.
On that busy first day I should also view the small simple things of my home. I want to see the warm colors in the rugs under my feet, the pictures on the walls, the intimate trifles that transform a house into home. My eyes would rest respectfully on the books in raised type which I have read, but they would be more eagerly interested in the printed books which seeing people can read, for during the long night of my life the books I have read and those which have been read to me have built themselves into a great shining lighthouse, revealing to me the deepest channels of human life and the human spirit.
In the first day, Helen wants to use some time to rest her eyes respectfully on books, from which reads can find out that how much love she have on reading.
1.3. Devotion of charity
The larger space one’s heart is, the bigger his dream is. Helen Keller practiced the dictum. Helen yearned to live a common life and open the prison of mind; it was such a dream that drove her out of darkness no matter what difficulties it has.
Starting in May 1888, Keller attended the Perkins Institute for the Blind. In 1894, Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan moved to New York to attend the Wright-Humason School for the Deaf, and to learn from Sarah Fuller at the Horace Mann School for the Deaf. In 1896, they returned to Massachusetts and Keller entered The Cambridge School for Young Ladies before gaining admittance, in 1900, to Radcliffe College, where she lived in Briggs Hall, South House. Her admirer, Mark Twain, had introduced her to Standard Oil magnate Henry Huttleston Rogers, who, with his wife Abbie, paid for her education. In 1904, at the age of 24, Keller graduated from Radcliffe, becoming the first deaf blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. She maintained a correspondence with the Austrian philosopher and pedagogue Wilhelm Jerusalem, who was one of the first to discover her literary talent.
Determined to communicate with others as conventionally as possible, Keller learned to speak, and spent much of her life giving speeches and lectures. She learned to “hear” people’s speech by reading their lips with her hands—her sense of touch had become extremely subtle. She became proficient at using braille and reading sign language with her hands as well. Shortly before World War I, with the assistance of the Zoellner Quartet she determined that by placing her fingertips on a resonant tabletop she could experience music played close by.
Keller went on to become a world-famous speaker and author. She is remembered as an advocate for people with disabilities, amid numerous other causes. She was a suffragist, a pacifist, an opponent of Woodrow Wilson, a radical socialist and a birth control supporter. In 1915 she and George Kessler founded the Helen Keller International (HKI) organization. This organization is devoted to research in vision, health and nutrition. In 1920 she helped to found the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Keller traveled to 40 some-odd countries with Sullivan, making several trips to Japan and becoming a favorite of the Japanese people. Keller met every U.S. President from Grover Cleveland to Lyndon B. Johnson and was friends with many famous figures, including Alexander Graham Bell, Charlie Chaplin and Mark Twain. Keller and Twain were both considered radicals at the beginning of the 20th century, and as a consequence, their political views have been forgotten or glossed over in popular perception.
Keller was a member of the Socialist Party and actively campaigned and wrote in support of the working class from 1909 to 1921. She supported Socialist Party candidate Eugene V. Debs in each of his campaigns for the presidency.
2. Analysis of Anne Sullivan
2.1. Dedicated and patient
Johanna “Anne” Mansfield Sullivan Macy, better known as Anne Sullivan, was an American teacher, best known for being the instructor and companion of Helen Keller. Sullivan was born on April 14, 1866 in Feeding Hills, Agawam, Massachusetts. According to her baptismal certificate, her name at birth was Johanna Mansfield Sullivan; however, she was called Anne or Annie from birth. Her parents were Thomas and Alice Sullivan, Irish immigrants who reportedly couldn’t read and were almost penniless. Alice died in 1874, probably from tuberculosis. Anne had three other siblings: James, Ellen, and Mary. After the death of their mother, Anne and her younger brother, James was sent to an almshouse in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, where Jimmie eventually died. Anne spent seven years there. In 1880, blind from an untreated trachoma, she was sent to the Perkins School for the Blind. Some teachers at Perkins recognized Sullivan’s intelligence and tamed her headstrong ways. Michael Anagnos, director of the Institute, then located in South Boston, encouraged her to tutor younger students. She also underwent eye surgery that partially restored her vision. While at Perkins, Anne befriended and learned the manual alphabet from Laura Bridgman, herself a graduate of Perkins and the first person with deaf blindness to be educated. Sullivan graduated from Perkins School for the Blind in 1886, when she was 20 years old, as the valedictorian of her class and gave the valedictory address. Anagnos was approached to suggest a teacher for a deaf-blind girl, Helen Keller. He asked Sullivan, she visually impaired and only 20 years old, to become her instructor. Sullivan arrived at Keller’s house in the small Alabama town of Tuscumbia on March 3, 1887. It was the beginning of a 49-year relationship, Sullivan evolving first into governess, and then companion.
As soon as she arrived at the Kellers’ house in Tuscumbia, Alabama, as a young instructor from the north, she quarreled with Helen’s parents about the Civil War and over the fact that the Kellers used to own slaves. She met six-year-old Helen and immediately began to teach her to communicate, by spelling words into her hand, beginning with “d‑o‑l‑l” for the doll that she had brought her as a present. Keller was frustrated at first, because she did not understand that every object had a word uniquely identifying it. Her big breakthrough in communication came the next month. She realized that the motions her teacher was making on the palm of her hand, while running cool water over her other hand, symbolized the idea of water. She then nearly exhausted Sullivan demanding the names of all the other familiar objects in her world. As lifelong companions, Sullivan and Keller continually lived, worked, and traveled together.
2.2. Professional and Responsible
Anne Sullivan arrived at Keller’s house in March 1887, and immediately began to teach Helen to communicate by spelling words into her hand, beginning with “d-o-l-l” for the doll that she had brought Keller as a present. Keller was frustrated, at first, because she did not understand that every object had a word uniquely identifying it. In fact, when Sullivan was trying to teach Keller the word for “mug”, Keller became so frustrated she broke the doll. Keller’s big breakthrough in communication came the next month, when she realized that the motions her teacher was making on the palm of her hand, while running cool water over her other hand, symbolized the idea of “water”; she then nearly exhausted Sullivan demanding the names of all the other familiar objects in her world.
Teacher should be professional and responsible. Anne Sullivan pours all of her love into Helen, which is selfless and grand. As a disabled person like Helen, it is when she met Anne Sullivan that she could change her life thoroughly. Anne Sullivan used her whole life staying with Helen and teaching Helen. She made Helen changed from a ignorance, rude and fiery child into a brave authoress. She strongly encouraged Helen’s parents to send the child to the Perkins School for the Blind where she could have an appropriate teaching. With their approval, Sullivan brought Helen to Boston in 1888 and stayed with her there. Anne continued to teach her bright protégée, who soon became famous for her remarkable progress. With the help of Michael Anagnos, head of the school, Helen Keller became the figure of Perkins School for the Blind and brought funds and donations, making it the most famous and sought-after school for the blind in the country. When Helen graduated from Perkins, Anne followed her to New York City, where they frequented the Wright-Humason School for the Deaf. In this institution, they tried to acquire the skills of lip-reading and oral speech.
3. Analysis of Kate Adams Heller
Her father, Arthur H. Keller, spent many years as an editor for the Tuscumbia North Alabamian, and had served as a captain for the Confederate Army. Her paternal grandmother was the second cousin of Robert E. Lee. Her mother, Kate Adams, was the daughter of Charles W. Adams. Though originally from Massachusetts, Charles Adams also fought for the Confederate Army during the American Civil War, earning the rank of colonel (and acting brigadier-general). Her paternal lineage was traced to Casper Keller, a native of Switzerland. One of Helen’s Swiss ancestors was the first teacher for the deaf in Zurich. Keller reflected on this coincidence in her first autobiography, stating “that there is no king who has not had a slave among his ancestors, and no slave who has not had a king among his.” Helen Keller was born with the ability to see and hear. At 19 months old, she contracted an illness described by doctors as “an acute congestion of the stomach and the brain”, which might have been scarlet fever or meningitis. The illness left her both deaf and blind. At that time, she was able to communicate somewhat with Martha Washington, the six-year-old daughter of the family cook, who understood her signs; by the age of seven, Keller had more than 60 home signs to communicate with her family.
Learning was tough for Helen. Because of her deafness and blindness, no one could get through to her, and she could not communicate with others. Basic rules and lessons made no sense to her, and she was called a “wild child”. Then, in 1886, her mom heard about the Perkins School for the Blind in Boston from Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone. Helen reminded Bell of another girl named Laura Bridgman, who was deaf and blind. Kate wrote to the head of the Perkins School to ask for a teacher for Helen and they sent their star student, Anne Sullivan. The day she arrived—March 3, 1887—Helen’s life changed. In 1886, Keller’s mother, inspired by an account in Charles Dickens’ American Notes of the successful education of another deaf and blind woman, Laura Bridgman, dispatched young Helen, accompanied by her father, to seek out physician J. Julian Chisolm, an eye, ear, nose, and throat specialist in Baltimore, for advice. Chisholm referred the Kellers to Alexander Graham Bell, who was working with deaf children at the time. Bell advised them to contact the Perkins Institute for the Blind, the school where Bridgman had been educated, which was then located in South Boston. Michael Anagnos, the school’s director, asked former student 20-year-old Anne Sullivan, herself visually impaired, to become Keller’s instructor. It was the beginning of a 49-year-long relationship during which Sullivan evolved into Keller’s governess and eventually her companion.
4. The enlightenment from three great women
4.1. Be moral
Three Days to See, a remarkable account of overcoming the debilitating challenges of being both deaf and blind, is an eternal philosophy prose of life. The significance of Helen’s book can be stated as followed d as followed:
Firstly, these three women let readers understand the significance of moral. Helen teaches us to be grateful and optimistic to the life. From the book we can see that Helen is an optimist and has a grateful heart. She is optimistic and does not blame God and man. She learns to see things from the bright side; she thinks more of her own enjoyment, less to her lack of things. Misfortune may be an actual blessing. In her struggle with disabilities, she shows an amazing will. As it is mentioned above, we should learn Helen’s positive attitude to life and use a dialectical perspective to treat things around us. Pessimistic attitude will never give us any change. Instead, we should realize it is the cruel of life that makes us stronger and braver. Therefore, we should be grateful and positive to life, as life gives us everything.
4.2. Be encouraging
Secondly, they teach readers the significance of encouraging. This book teaches us to be tough and have a clear direction both in our life and study. In the book, Helen never bows to the fate. She encourages people to be brave towards the difficulties and pain in daily life. For instance, in her prose Three Days to See, she writes “Always my eyes are open wide to all the sights of both happiness and misery…To close the eye on them is to close the heart and mind which encourage us very much.”(Helen Keller, 2010: 208,210) Helen defeats all the difficulties, and creates a fabulous miracle. She wants to study in Harvard in the future, so she spares no effort to achieve her dream, and finally she overcomes all the difficulties and makes it come true. Actually, in our study and work, it is inevitable to experience frustration or failure. In the complex conflict between ideal and reality, we must steer our direction, endeavor to get our goal and never allow it lose its way. Success belongs to those people who can overcome difficulties and face life with smiles. She also told us to be confident by this sentence: “Confidence is the master of fate.” She encourages us to be strong with such words “Never bend your head. Hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye.”
4.3. Be educational and edifying
Thirdly, they, especially Helen let readers understand the significance of being educational and edifying. This book tells people to love nature, love the cause, and love your life. She suggested us to read as much as we can and highly stressed the magnitude of reading in edifying ourselves. No one can have read Miss Keller’s autobiography without feeling that she writes unusually fine English. (John Albert Macy, 2008: 384) Helen Keller has a good sensitive to the beauties of language and to the finer interplay of thought which demands expression in melodious word grouping. Actually, people can’t help gasping in admiration for Helen’s peculiar imagination after reading this book which can be regarded as a magic work. It’s a philosophical song of life. In this book Helen used various rhetorical devices to portray the environment, the beautiful scenes around her and expressed her emotion towards different people and objects, including simile, personification，metaphor, metonymy, exaggeration, parallelism, euphemism, quotation, antithesis and so on. She also reminds us that “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt within the heart.” which enlightens us to feel the beauty of all the things around us by heart. At last, she mentioned in the book the scientific education methods, especially the special education method for the disabled, until today it is still the reference model of the educationists.
Three Days to See is a personal account of Helen Keller’s life, from her early days to those as an adult. It includes how she came to meet her teacher Ann Sullivan, and learnt to communicate using the manual alphabet. It then goes on to chronicle her days as a college student. What’s more, Helen Keller, Time Magazine’s woman of the century, reveals her mystical side in this best-selling spiritual autobiography.
To sum up, this paper gives an account of three women in Helen Keller’s novel Three Days to See. These good qualities among them encourage people to develop their own potential to be a success. All of them have succeeded in illustrating the clear definition of life through their extraordinary struggle against their tragic fates, that is, human spirit and the soul should be respected and people should try to realize their dreams and meet their inner needs, and adversity is not a disaster instead it is an inexhaustible wealth，which helps and encourages people step out of the darkness and enriches their experience and strengthens their confidence over difficulties. During their progress, they had met the need of the soul, which is what they have been craved for during their lifetime.
Many people are blind or deaf, but one person stands above the rest, she is Helen Keller. Helen’s autobiography not only shows her life and her strong mind in overcoming the difficulties, but also makes her personality more vivid and clear. Based on facts and highly literary are two features of Helen’s book, and her book has brought huge impact on the society even on the whole world by its unique educational, moral, and encouraging functions. The magnitude of literary biography should be highly valued, and Helen’s spirit should be promoted generation by generation forever.
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