Which Were the Key Incidents that Led Helen Keller out of Her “Prison”

During this past week I have been reading the autobiography of Helen Keller(1880-1968), who was an author, political activist, and lecturer; who was also deaf and blind. She became deaf and blind at the very young age of nineteen months, after becoming ill with an unknown illness that took her sight and hearing. Before this illness Keller had picked up communication earlier and more quickly than other babies, which of course made her parents very amazed and happy, but this was cut short, when she became sick. After her illness Helen’s early childhood life was dark and silent, and in a metaphorical term like a “prison” because of her disability. But if you read about her now you would see that she became pretty successful in life, and that her disability hadn’t really prevented her from gaining success; so what were the key incidents that led Keller out of her “prison”? 

Anne Sullivan Coming into Her Life

Though this isn’t really an incident I felt that it was important to add this, because Anne Sullivan coming into Keller’s life as a young child is the starting point which led to the incidents that led Keller out of her “prison.” Anne Sullivan was Keller’s first teacher, and was the one that helped Keller learn to communicate. Before Sullivan was in Keller’s life, Keller was a very frustrated little girl, who threw many fits. She was also a bit of a prankster, and even locked her mother up in a pantry; she did something similar to Sullivan when she first came. So as you can tell Keller was not an easy child at all, but when Sullivan entered Keller’s life, Keller found a way out of her frustrations, to find ways to grow. Which is why I believe this was one of the key things that helped Keller out of her “prison.”

The Water Incident

One of the first things that Sullivan did when it came to Keller’s education was trying to show Keller that each object had a name; Keller did not get this at first and soon became frustrated. So Sullivan took Keller for a walk, and took her to a water spout. Before Keller became ill the first word she learned was water. So Sullivan began pumping water onto Keller’s hand, and began spelling into Keller’s hand the word “water.” Sullivan spells out the word more rapidly; and something in Keller’s mind clicked, she realizes that “water,” meant that wonderful cool thing that was pouring onto her hand. This incident was a breakthrough for Keller’s learning of communication.

Learning to Understand Abstract Words

After the water incident things took off for Keller, she wanted to know every word for every object! Because of this Sullivan began teaching Keller about abstract words(words for example like, love, care, etc), Keller had a hard time understanding abstract words; before this point she had thought that every word was for an object. But she eventually breaks through. This incident occurred when Keller was beading, and messed up the sequence; Keller of course began trying to figure out where she went wrong, so Sullivan tapped onto Keller’s forehead and spelled out the word “think.” Immediately Keller realizes that “think” is the word for what is going inside her head. After that she begins to pick up on abstract words, just like she had with words for objects.

Learning to Speak

At a certain point in Keller’s childhood, she began wanting to speak verbally. She eventually learned how to do so by putting her hand on a person’s face to feel their facial movements as they uttered words; then her teacher would write down what the person was saying on Keller’s hand. By this method she was able to learn how to speak, which is highly impressive for someone who had never heard a word, or had seen the way a mouth moves when forming words. Keller’s speech was never fully clear, and was not perfect but it was a great step for her, which is why I added this as a key incident.


As you may tell Keller was a very impressive woman, who did not let her disability prevent her from success. Thanks to her teacher’s guidance she was able to learn to communicate, to understand words, and even eventually learned to speak, which in turn freed her from her “prison” and set her free to grow and learn, into the woman she became.

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