Part II: Letters

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. supplementary
    added to complete or make up a deficiency
    Helen Keller's letters are important, not only as a supplementary story of her life, but as a demonstration of her growth in thought and expression—the growth which in itself has made her distinguished.
  2. remarkable
    worthy of notice
    These letters are, however, not merely remarkable as the productions of a deaf and blind girl, to be read with wonder and curiosity; they are good letters almost from the first. The best passages are those in which she talks about herself, and gives her world in terms of her experience of it.
  3. spontaneity
    the quality of coming from feelings without constraint
    Of her friends, many have been distinguished people, to whom—not often, I think, at the sacrifice of spontaneity—she has felt it necessary to write well.
  4. naive
    marked by or showing unaffected simplicity
    Her naive retelling of a child's tale she has heard, like the story of "Little Jakey," which she rehearses for Dr. Holmes and Bishop Brooks, is charming...
  5. intellectual
    of or associated with or requiring the use of the mind
    Although she can have no sensuous knowledge of colour, she can use the words, as we use most of our vocabulary, intellectually, with truth, not to impression, but to fact.
  6. mimicry
    imitative behavior
    It shows how much the gift of writing is, in the early stages of its development, the gift of mimicry.
  7. exceeding
    far beyond what is usual in magnitude or degree
    I study about the earth, and the animals, and I like arithmetic exceedingly. I learn many new words, too. EXCEEDINGLY is one that I learned yesterday.
  8. grieve
    cause to feel sorrow
    When people do very wrong and hurt animals and treat children unkindly God is grieved, but what will he do to them to teach them to be pitiful and loving?
  9. acquisition
    the cognitive process of obtaining skill or knowledge
    I am very much delighted to hear of your new acquisition—that you "talk with your mouth" as well as with your fingers. What a curious thing SPEECH is!
  10. solicit
    request urgently or persistently
    She began to solicit contributions from her friends, and saved her pennies.
  11. contribution
    an amount of money given
    Meanwhile opportunity came to Helen to make a considerable contribution to Tommy's education. The winter before, her dog Lioness had been killed, and friends set to work to raise money to buy Helen another dog. Helen asked that the contributions, which people were sending from all over America and England, be devoted to Tommy's education.
  12. distress
    cause mental pain to
    Sometimes I am not well; but I am not a "wreck," and there is nothing "distressing" about my condition.
  13. menagerie
    a collection of live animals for study or display
    I love all living things,—I suppose everyone does; but of course I cannot have a menagerie.
  14. endeavor
    attempt by employing effort
    You will be pleased, dear Mother, to hear that a kind lady whose name is Miss Hooker is endeavoring to improve my speech.
  15. prefatory
    serving as an introduction or preface
    In a prefatory note which Miss Sullivan wrote for St. Nicholas, she says that people frequently said to her, "Helen sees more with her fingers than we do with our eyes."
  16. synecdoche
    using part of something to refer to the whole thing
    I know a great deal of it by heart, for I loved it long before I knew a metaphor from a synecdoche.
  17. exploit
    a notable achievement
    I always thought clubs were dull, smoky places, where men talked politics, and told endless stories, all about themselves and their wonderful exploits: but now I see, I must have been quite wrong....
  18. facilitate
    make easier
    It is true that Algebra and Geometry are growing easier all the time, especially algebra; and I have just received books in raised print which will greatly facilitate my work....
  19. elated
    exultantly proud and joyful; in high spirits
    Mr. Keith and Teacher were quite enthusiastic over the achievement, and I must confess, I felt somewhat elated myself.
  20. hoary
    having gray or white hair as with age
    How quickly I should lock up all these mighty warriors, and hoary sages, and impossible heroes, who are now almost my only companions; and dance and sing and frolic like other girls!
  21. conspicuous
    obvious to the eye or mind
    As to the two-handed alphabet, I think it is much easier for those who have sight than the manual alphabet; for most of the letters look like the large capitals in books; but I think when it comes to teaching a deaf-blind person to spell, the manual alphabet is much more convenient, and less conspicuous....
  22. insipid
    lacking interest or significance or impact
    I feel ashamed sometimes, when I make that eloquent man say what sounds absurd or insipid; but how is a school-girl to interpret such genius?
  23. yield
    cease opposition; stop fighting
    Her arguments seemed so wise and practical, that I could not but yield.
  24. decipher
    make out the meaning of
    I did teach Miss Hall, my teacher in Physics, how to write the American braille, but she never gave me any instruction by means of it, unless a few problems written for practice, which made me waste much precious time deciphering them, can be called instruction.
  25. piquant
    engagingly stimulating or provocative
    It is a delightful novel, full of piquant expressions and thrilling adventures, (don't dare to blame me for using big words, since you do the same!) and, if you ever read it, I think you will enjoy it immensely.
  26. allegory
    a style that describes a subject by suggestive resemblances
    I do not care much for the allegories, indeed I often find them tiresome, and I cannot help thinking that Spenser's world of knights, paynims, fairies, dragons and all sorts of strange creatures is a somewhat grotesque and amusing world; but the poem itself is lovely and as musical as a running brook.
  27. unprecedented
    novel; having no earlier occurrence
    Is it possible for the College to accommodate itself to these unprecedented conditions, so as to enable me to pursue my studies at Radcliffe?
  28. insurmountable
    not capable of being overcome
    I realize that the obstacles in the way of my receiving a college education are very great—to others they may seem insurmountable; but, dear Sir, a true soldier does not acknowledge defeat before the battle.
  29. feasible
    capable of being done with means at hand
    At first I was most enthusiastic in its support, and I never dreamed that any grave objections could be raised except indeed by those who are hostile to Teacher, but now, after thinking most SERIOUSLY and consulting my friends, I have decided that—'s plan is by no means feasible.
  30. humanitarian
    marked by devotion to popular welfare
    They were very kind; but I could not help feeling that they spoke more from a business than a humanitarian point of view.
  31. afflicted
    grievously affected especially by disease
    I am sure they did not quite understand how passionately I desire that all who are afflicted like myself shall receive their rightful inheritance of thought, knowledge and love.
  32. elective
    not compulsory
    The courses at Radcliffe are elective, only certain courses in English are prescribed.
  33. precocious
    characterized by exceptionally early development
    I was much surprised to hear all this; for I judged from your letters that Katie was a very precocious girl....
  34. efficient
    being effective without wasting time, effort, or expense
    Then, too, it will be rendered still more efficient by the "interpointing system," which will save an immense amount of space and paper.
  35. forlorn
    marked by or showing hopelessness
    On one of them I noticed that the strings were of wire, and having had some experience in bead work, I said I thought they would break. Dr. Bell said "No!" with great confidence, and the kite was sent up. It began to pull and tug, and lo, the wires broke, and off went the great red dragon, and poor Dr. Bell stood looking forlornly after it.
  36. commemoration
    a ceremony to honor the memory of someone or something
    My teacher and I expect to be present at the meeting tomorrow in commemoration of the one hundredth anniversary of Dr. Howe's birth...
  37. impotence
    the quality of lacking strength or power
    I think only those who have escaped that death-in-life existence, from which Laura Bridgman was rescued, can realize how isolated, how shrouded in darkness, how cramped by its own impotence is a soul without thought or faith or hope.
  38. desolation
    sadness resulting from being forsaken or abandoned
    Words are powerless to describe the desolation of that prison-house, or the joy of the soul that is delivered out of its captivity.
  39. breadth
    the extent of something from side to side
    Thanks to our friend and helper, our world lies upward; the length and breadth and sweep of the heavens are ours!
  40. unstable
    subject to change; variable
    I like to have the papers read to me, and I try to understand the great questions of the day; but I am afraid my knowledge is very unstable; for I change my opinions with every new book I read.
Created on September 29, 2017 (updated October 5, 2017)

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