Part I: Chapters 6-11

This account of Helen Keller's life is divided into three parts: Part I is Keller's autobiography, which she published in 1903; Part II is a selection of Keller's letters; and Part III consists of supplementary materials by Keller's teacher and lifelong friend, Anne Sullivan.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. stammer
    speak haltingly
    Gradually from naming an object we advance step by step until we have traversed the vast distance between our first stammered syllable and the sweep of thought in a line of Shakespeare.
  2. inadequate
    not sufficient to meet a need
    My ideas were vague, and my vocabulary was inadequate; but as my knowledge of things grew, and I learned more and more words, my field of inquiry broadened, and I would return again and again to the same subject, eager for further information.
  3. revive
    restore from a depressed, inactive, or unused state
    Sometimes a new word revived an image that some earlier experience had engraved on my brain.
  4. symmetrical
    exhibiting equivalence or correspondence among constituents
    A day or two afterward I was stringing beads of different sizes in symmetrical groups—two large beads, three small ones, and so on.
  5. abstract
    existing only in the mind
    In a flash I knew that the word was the name of the process that was going on in my head. This was my first conscious perception of an abstract idea.
  6. idiom
    expression whose meaning cannot be inferred from its words
    If I did not know the words and idioms necessary to express my thoughts she supplied them, even suggesting conversation when I was unable to keep up my end of the dialogue.
  7. stimulus
    any information or event that acts to arouse action
    My teacher, realizing this, determined to supply the kinds of stimulus I lacked.
  8. verbatim
    using exactly the same words
    This she did by repeating to me as far as possible, verbatim, what she heard, and by showing me how I could take part in the conversation.
  9. initiative
    the first of a series of actions
    But it was a long time before I ventured to take the initiative, and still longer before I could find something appropriate to say at the right time.
  10. amenity
    pleasantness resulting from agreeable conditions
    The deaf and the blind find it very difficult to acquire the amenities of conversation.
  11. gamut
    a complete extent or range
    They cannot distinguish the tone of the voice or, without assistance, go up and down the gamut of tones that give significance to words; nor can they watch the expression of the speaker's face, and a look is often the very soul of what one says.
  12. pinafore
    a sleeveless dress resembling an apron
    One day, Miss Sullivan tells me, I pinned the word girl on my pinafore and stood in the wardrobe.
  13. earnestly
    in a serious manner
    Even when I studied most earnestly it seemed more like play than work.
  14. faculty
    an inherent cognitive or perceptual power of the mind
    Added to this she had a wonderful faculty for description. She went quickly over uninteresting details, and never nagged me with questions to see if I remembered the day-before-yesterday's lesson.
  15. trill
    sing or play alternating with the half note above or below
    Indeed, everything that could hum, or buzz, or sing, or bloom had a part in my education—noisy-throated frogs, katydids and crickets held in my hand until forgetting their embarrassment, they trilled their reedy note, little downy chickens and wildflowers, the dogwood blossoms, meadow-violets and budding fruit trees.
  16. indignant
    angered at something unjust or wrong
    I felt the bursting cotton-bolls and fingered their soft fiber and fuzzy seeds; I felt the low soughing of the wind through the cornstalks, the silky rustling of the long leaves, and the indignant snort of my pony, as we caught him in the pasture and put the bit in his mouth—ah me! how well I remember the spicy, clovery smell of his breath!
  17. conscience
    motivation deriving from ethical or moral principles
    When I had accomplished this my conscience was at rest for the day, and I went out quickly to find my playmates.
  18. leisurely
    not hurried or forced
    In this same leisurely manner I studied zoology and botany.
  19. bas relief
    sculpture that projects only slightly from the background
    Once a gentleman, whose name I have forgotten, sent me a collection of fossils—tiny mollusk shells beautifully marked, and bits of sandstone with the print of birds' claws, and a lovely fern in bas-relief.
  20. antediluvian
    so extremely old as seeming to belong to an earlier period
    These were the keys which unlocked the treasures of the antediluvian world for me.
  21. uncouth
    lacking refinement or cultivation or taste
    With trembling fingers I listened to Miss Sullivan's descriptions of the terrible beasts, with uncouth, unpronounceable names, which once went tramping through the primeval forests, tearing down the branches of gigantic trees for food, and died in the dismal swamps of an unknown age.
  22. lustrous
    made smooth and bright by or as if by rubbing
    Another time a beautiful shell was given me, and with a child's surprise and delight I learned how a tiny mollusk had built the lustrous coil for his dwelling place, and how on still nights, when there is no breeze stirring the waves, the Nautilus sails on the blue waters of the Indian Ocean in his "ship of pearl."
  23. systematically
    in a consistent manner
    The slender, fingerlike leaves on the outside opened slowly, reluctant, I thought, to reveal the loveliness they hid; once having made a start, however, the opening process went on rapidly, but in order and systematically.
  24. tact
    consideration in dealing with others
    It was my teacher's genius, her quick sympathy, her loving tact which made the first years of my education so beautiful.
  25. impart
    transmit, as knowledge or a skill
    It was because she seized the right moment to impart knowledge that made it so pleasant and acceptable to me.
  26. placid
    calm and free from disturbance
    ...she attempted to guide my mind on its way, knowing that like a brook it should be fed by mountain streams and hidden springs, until it broadened out into a deep river, capable of reflecting in its placid surface, billowy hills, the luminous shadows of trees and the blue heavens, as well as the sweet face of a little flower.
  27. innate
    inborn or existing naturally
    How much of my delight in all beautiful things is innate, and how much is due to her influence, I can never tell.
  28. compel
    force somebody to do something
    She was covered with dirt—the remains of mud pies I had compelled her to eat, although she had never shown any special liking for them.
  29. reproachful
    expressing disapproval, blame, or disappointment
    When I next saw her she was a formless heap of cotton, which I should not have recognized at all except for the two bead eyes which looked out at me reproachfully.
  30. manual
    of or relating to the hands
    It delighted me inexpressibly to find that they knew the manual alphabet. What joy to talk with other children in my own language!
  31. frolic
    light-hearted recreational activity for amusement
    I knew I could not see; but it did not seem possible that all the eager, loving children who gathered round me and joined heartily in my frolics were also blind.
  32. deprivation
    the disadvantage that results from losing something
    Although I had been told this before, and although I understood my own deprivations, yet I had thought vaguely that since they could hear, they must have a sort of "second sight," and I was not prepared to find one child and another and yet another deprived of the same precious gift.
  33. toil
    productive work, especially physical work done for wages
    I could touch it, and perhaps that made the coming of the Pilgrims and their toils and great deeds seem more real to me.
  34. emboss
    raise in a relief
    I have often held in my hand a little model of the Plymouth Rock which a kind gentleman gave me at Pilgrim Hall, and I have fingered its curves, the split in the centre and the embossed figures "1620," and turned over in my mind all that I knew about the wonderful story of the Pilgrims.
  35. prospective
    of or concerned with or related to the future
    I was delighted, for my mind was full of the prospective joys and of the wonderful stories I had heard about the sea.
  36. buoyant
    tending to float on a liquid or rise in air or gas
    The buoyant motion of the water filled me with an exquisite, quivering joy.
  37. ponderous
    having great mass and weight and unwieldiness
    I felt the pebbles rattling as the waves threw their ponderous weight against the shore; the whole beach seemed racked by their terrific onset, and the air throbbed with their pulsations.
  38. fascinated
    having your attention fixated as though by a spell
    The breakers would swoop back to gather themselves for a mightier leap, and I clung to the rock, tense, fascinated, as I felt the dash and roar of the rushing sea!
  39. feat
    a notable achievement
    This feat pleased me highly, as his body was very heavy, and it took all my strength to drag him half a mile.
  40. pervade
    spread or diffuse through
    Here were great oaks and splendid evergreens with trunks like mossy pillars, from the branches of which hung garlands of ivy and mistletoe, and persimmon trees, the odour of which pervaded every nook and corner of the wood—an illusive, fragrant something that made the heart glad.
Created on September 29, 2017 (updated October 5, 2017)

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