Part I: Chapters 12-17

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. portend
    indicate by signs
    Then came a day when the chill air portended a snowstorm.
  2. impenetrable
    not admitting of passage into or through
    High mounds, pyramids heaped in fantastic shapes, and impenetrable drifts lay scattered in every direction.
  3. exhilarating
    thrilling or invigorating
    What joy! What exhilarating madness! For one wild, glad moment we snapped the chain that binds us to earth, and joining hands with the winds we felt ourselves divine!
  4. audible
    heard or perceptible by the ear
    The impulse to utter audible sounds had always been strong within me. I used to make noises, keeping one hand on my throat while the other hand felt the movements of my lips.
  5. imperative
    requiring attention or action
    My friends say that I laughed and cried naturally, and for awhile I made many sounds and word-elements, not because they were a means of communication, but because the need of exercising my vocal organs was imperative.
  6. dissatisfaction
    the feeling of being displeased and discontent
    I had known for a long time that the people about me used a method of communication different from mine; and even before I knew that a deaf child could be taught to speak, I was conscious of dissatisfaction with the means of communication I already possessed.
  7. restraint
    the state of being physically limited
    One who is entirely dependent upon the manual alphabet has always a sense of restraint, of narrowness.
  8. tendency
    an inclination to do something
    My thoughts would often rise and beat up like birds against the wind, and I persisted in using my lips and voice. Friends tried to discourage this tendency, fearing lest it would lead to disappointment.
  9. boon
    something that is desirable, favorable, or beneficial
    It is an unspeakable boon to me to be able to speak in winged words that need no interpretation.
  10. perseverance
    persistent determination
    But for Miss Sullivan's genius, untiring perseverance and devotion, I could not have progressed as far as I have toward natural speech.
  11. articulate
    speak, pronounce, or utter in a certain way
    In the first place, I laboured night and day before I could be understood even by my most intimate friends; in the second place, I needed Miss Sullivan's assistance constantly in my efforts to articulate each sound clearly and to combine all sounds in a thousand ways.
  12. contend
    come to terms with
    All teachers of the deaf know what this means, and only they can at all appreciate the peculiar difficulties with which I had to contend.
  13. weariness
    temporary loss of strength and energy from hard work
    Discouragement and weariness cast me down frequently; but the next moment the thought that I should soon be at home and show my loved ones what I had accomplished, spurred me on, and I eagerly looked forward to their pleasure in my achievement.
  14. ecstatic
    feeling great rapture or delight
    I used to repeat ecstatically, "I am not dumb now."
  15. despondent
    without or almost without hope
    I could not be despondent while I anticipated the delight of talking to my mother and reading her responses from her lips.
  16. impede
    be a hindrance or obstacle to
    I place my hand on the hand of the speaker so lightly as not to impede its movements.
  17. plagiarism
    a piece of writing that has been copied from someone else
    The two stories were so much alike in thought and language that it was evident Miss Canby's story had been read to me, and that mine was—a plagiarism.
  18. oppressive
    weighing heavily on the senses or spirit
    How well I remember the graceful draperies that enfolded me, the bright autumn leaves that wreathed my head, and the fruit and grain at my feet and in my hands, and beneath all the piety of the masque the oppressive sense of coming ill that made my heart heavy.
  19. deliberately
    with intention; in an intentional manner
    He believed, or at least suspected, that Miss Sullivan and I had deliberately stolen the bright thoughts of another and imposed them on him to win his admiration.
  20. caress
    a gentle affectionate stroking
    Even the consciousness that it was only a dreadful mistake did not lessen my suffering, and when at last I was allowed to leave the room, I was dazed and did not notice my teacher's caresses, or the tender words of my friends, who said I was a brave little girl and they were proud of me.
  21. exclusion
    the state of being shut out
    When Miss Sullivan came back, I did not speak to her about "The Frost Fairies," probably because she began at once to read "Little Lord Fauntleroy," which filled my mind to the exclusion of everything else.
  22. prophecy
    a prediction uttered under divine inspiration
    Miss Canby herself wrote kindly, "Some day you will write a great story out of your own head, that will be a comfort and help to many." But this kind prophecy has never been fulfilled.
  23. persistent
    never-ceasing
    Had it not been for the persistent encouragement of Miss Sullivan, I think I should have given up trying to write altogether.
  24. saturate
    infuse or fill completely
    At the time I was writing "The Frost King," and this letter, like many others, contains phrases which show that my mind was saturated with the story.
  25. assimilate
    take up mentally
    This habit of assimilating what pleased me and giving it out again as my own appears in much of my early correspondence and my first attempts at writing.
  26. devoid
    completely wanting or lacking
    Yet I cannot think that because I did not originate the ideas, my little composition is therefore quite devoid of interest.
  27. menacing
    threatening evil or danger
    But, however the case may have been, with whichever side he may have cast his vote, when I went into the room where Mr. Anagnos had so often held me on his knee and, forgetting his many cares, had shared in my frolics, and found there persons who seemed to doubt me, I felt that there was something hostile and menacing in the very atmosphere, and subsequent events have borne out this impression.
  28. scrupulous
    characterized by extreme care and great effort
    I was still excessively scrupulous about everything I wrote.
  29. torment
    make suffer emotionally or mentally
    The thought that what I wrote might not be absolutely my own tormented me.
  30. disquietude
    feelings of anxiety that make you tense and irritable
    An impish fear clutched my hand, so that I could not write any more that day. And even now I sometimes feel the same uneasiness and disquietude.
  31. resolutely
    showing firm determination or purpose
    I wrote timidly, fearfully, but resolutely, urged on by my teacher, who knew that if I persevered, I should find my mental foothold again and get a grip on my faculties.
  32. evident
    clearly revealed to the mind or the senses or judgment
    They are always asking: "What does this beauty or that music mean to you? You cannot see the waves rolling up the beach or hear their roar. What do they mean to you?" In the most evident sense they mean everything.
  33. fathom
    come to understand
    I cannot fathom or define their meaning any more than I can fathom or define love or religion or goodness.
  34. undaunted
    resolutely courageous
    I had been on a man-of-war before, in Boston, and it interested me to see, on this Viking ship, how the seaman was once all in all—how he sailed and took storm and calm alike with undaunted heart, and gave chase to whosoever reechoed his cry, "We are of the sea!" and fought with brains and sinews, self-reliant, self-sufficient, instead of being thrust into the background by unintelligent machinery, as Jack is to-day.
  35. insatiable
    impossible to fulfill, appease, or gratify
    Mr. Higinbotham, President of the World's Fair, kindly gave me permission to touch the exhibits, and with an eagerness as insatiable as that with which Pizarro seized the treasures of Peru, I took in the glories of the Fair with my fingers.
  36. kaleidoscope
    a complex pattern of constantly changing colors and shapes
    It was a sort of tangible kaleidoscope, this white city of the West.
  37. relic
    an antiquity that has survived from the distant past
    We also visited the anthropological department, and I was much interested in the relics of ancient Mexico, in the rude stone implements that are so often the only record of an age—the simple monuments of nature's unlettered children (so I thought as I fingered them) that seem bound to last while the memorials of kings and sages crumble in dust away—and in the Egyptian mummies, which I shrank from touching.
  38. desultory
    marked by lack of definite plan, purpose, or enthusiasm
    Before October, 1893, I had studied various subjects by myself in a more or less desultory manner.
  39. considerable
    large in number, amount, extent, or degree
    I also gave considerable time to the improvement of my speech.
  40. inflect
    vary the pitch of one's speech
    I read aloud to Miss Sullivan and recited passages from my favourite poets, which I had committed to memory; she corrected my pronunciation and helped me to phrase and inflect.
  41. evanescent
    tending to vanish like vapor
    There is nothing more beautiful, I think, than the evanescent fleeting images and sentiments presented by a language one is just becoming familiar with—ideas that flit across the mental sky, shaped and tinted by capricious fancy.
  42. aggravate
    make worse
    When I was not guessing, I was jumping at conclusions, and this fault, in addition to my dullness, aggravated my difficulties more than was right or necessary.
  43. congenial
    suitable to your needs
    I remember especially the walks we all took together every day in Central Park, the only part of the city that was congenial to me.
  44. unobtrusive
    not undesirably noticeable
    He, who made every one happy in a beautiful, unobtrusive way, was most kind and tender to Miss Sullivan and me.
  45. fraught
    filled with or attended with
    So long as we felt his loving presence and knew that he took a watchful interest in our work, fraught with so many difficulties, we could not be discouraged.
Created on September 29, 2017 (updated October 5, 2017)

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