Part III: Chapters 3-5

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. compliance
    the act of submitting, usually surrendering power to another
    For this report Miss Sullivan prepared, in reluctant compliance with the request of Mr. Anagnos, an account of her work.
  2. credulity
    tendency to believe readily
    Thus the story of Helen Keller, incredible when told with moderation, had the misfortune to be heralded by exaggerated announcements, and naturally met either an ignorant credulity or an incredulous hostility.
  3. pedagogy
    the principles and methods of instruction
    She was her own critic, and in spite of her later declaration, made with her modest carelessness, that she followed no particular method, she was very clearly learning from her task and phrasing at the time principles of education of unique value not only in the teaching of the deaf but in the teaching of all children. The extracts from her letters and reports form an important contribution to pedagogy...
  4. sagacity
    the ability to understand and discriminate between relations
    ...only those who are familiar with the particulars of the grand achievement know that the credit is largely due to the intelligence, wisdom, sagacity, unremitting perseverance and unbending will of the instructress, who rescued the child from the depths of everlasting night and stillness, and watched over the different phases of her mental and moral development with maternal solicitude and enthusiastic devotion.
  5. solicitude
    a feeling of excessive concern
    ...only those who are familiar with the particulars of the grand achievement know that the credit is largely due to the intelligence, wisdom, sagacity, unremitting perseverance and unbending will of the instructress, who rescued the child from the depths of everlasting night and stillness, and watched over the different phases of her mental and moral development with maternal solicitude and enthusiastic devotion.
  6. unresponsive
    not reacting to some influence or stimulus
    She is unresponsive and even impatient of caresses from any one except her mother.
  7. discipline
    punish in order to gain control or enforce obedience
    She is very quick-tempered and wilful, and nobody, except her brother James, has attempted to control her. The greatest problem I shall have to solve is how to discipline and control her without breaking her spirit.
  8. obedience
    dutiful or submissive behavior toward another person
    I shall not attempt to conquer her by force alone; but I shall insist on reasonable obedience from the start.
  9. tenacious
    stubbornly unyielding
    She has tyrannized over everybody, her mother, her father, the servants...and nobody had ever seriously disputed her will, except occasionally her brother James, until I came; and like all tyrants she holds tenaciously to her divine right to do as she pleases.
  10. beset
    annoy continually or chronically
    As I began to teach her, I was beset by many difficulties.
  11. approbation
    official acceptance or agreement
    She accepted everything I did for her as a matter of course, and refused to be caressed, and there was no way of appealing to her affection or sympathy or childish love of approbation.
  12. transfixed
    having your attention held as though by a spell
    As the cold water gushed forth, filling the mug, I spelled "w-a-t-e-r" in Helen's free hand. The word coming so close upon the sensation of cold water rushing over her hand seemed to startle her. She dropped the mug and stood as one transfixed.
  13. ingenuity
    the property of showing inventiveness and skill
    When we first played this game two or three days ago, she showed no ingenuity at all in finding the object. She looked in places where it would have been impossible to put the ball or the spool.
  14. ennui
    the feeling of being bored by something tedious
    She has a great many dolls, and every one of them has been broken in a fit of temper or ennui.
  15. manifest
    reveal its presence or make an appearance
    My little pupil continues to manifest the same eagerness to learn as at first.
  16. incessantly
    without interruption
    Her every waking moment is spent in the endeavour to satisfy her innate desire for knowledge, and her mind works so incessantly that we have feared for her health.
  17. inquisitive
    given to questioning
    I remember how unbearable I used to find the inquisitiveness of my friends' children; but I know now that these questions indicate the child's growing interest in the cause of things.
  18. analogous
    similar or equivalent in some respects
    On the whole, her questions are analogous to those that a bright three-year-old child asks; but her desire for knowledge is so earnest, the questions are never tedious, though they draw heavily upon my meager store of information, and tax my ingenuity to the utmost.
  19. dormant
    inactive but capable of becoming active
    The subject was difficult, and my knowledge inadequate; but I am glad I didn't shirk my responsibility; for, stumbling, hesitating, and incomplete as my explanation was, it touched deep responsive chords in the soul of my little pupil, and the readiness with which she comprehended the great facts of physical life confirmed me in the opinion that the child has dormant within him, when he comes into the world, all the experiences of the race.
  20. arbitrary
    based on or subject to individual discretion or preference
    Sometimes her sentences are like Chinese puzzles; but they are the kind of puzzles children make when they try to express their half-formed ideas by means of arbitrary language.
  21. countenance
    the appearance conveyed by a person's face
    When she touched one with which she was familiar, a peculiarly sweet expression lighted her face, and we saw her countenance growing sweeter and more earnest every day.
  22. undulation
    wavelike motion
    She is able not only to distinguish with great accuracy the different undulations of the air and the vibrations of the floor made by various sounds and motions, and to recognize her friends and acquaintances the instant she touches their hands or clothing, but she also perceives the state of mind of those around her.
  23. fluency
    skillfulness in speaking or writing
    While these were few and elementary, her vocabulary was necessarily limited; but, as she learns more of the world about her, her judgment grows more accurate, her reasoning powers grow stronger, more active and subtle, and the language by which she expresses this intellectual activity gains in fluency and logic.
  24. unduly
    to an unnecessary degree
    Owing to the nervousness of Helen's temperament, every precaution has been taken to avoid unduly exciting her already very active brain.
  25. bearing
    relevant relation or interconnection
    Therefore it has always seemed best to me to teach anything whenever my pupil needed to know it, whether it had any bearing on the projected lesson or not, her inquiries have often led us far away from the subject under immediate consideration.
  26. intelligible
    capable of being apprehended or understood
    Whenever any one asks me if she will understand this or that word I always reply: "Never mind whether she understands each separate word of a sentence or not. She will guess the meanings of the new words from their connection with others which are already intelligible to her."
  27. attribute
    a quality belonging to or characteristic of an entity
    She has not as yet been allowed to read the Bible, because I do not see how she can do so at present without getting a very erroneous conception of the attributes of God.
  28. enlightenment
    education that results in the spread of knowledge
    Surrounded by loving friends and the gentlest influences, as Helen had always been, she has, from the earliest stage of her intellectual enlightenment, willingly done right.
  29. indissoluble
    incapable of being broken up
    LANGUAGE and KNOWLEDGE are indissolubly connected; they are interdependent.
  30. nomenclature
    a system of words used to name things in a discipline
    Grammar with its puzzling array of classifications, nomenclatures, and paradigms, was wholly discarded in her education.
  31. rudiment
    the elementary stage of any subject
    I believe every child has hidden away somewhere in his being noble capacities which may be quickened and developed if we go about it in the right way; but we shall never properly develop the higher natures of our little ones while we continue to fill their minds with the so-called rudiments.
  32. ellipsis
    omission or suppression of parts of words or sentences
    And though Miss Sullivan did not force grammatical completeness upon the first finger-lispings of her pupil, yet when she herself repeated Helen's sentence, "mamma milk," she filled out the construction, completed the child's ellipsis and said, "Mamma will bring Helen some milk."
  33. vitality
    a healthy capacity for vigorous activity
    Miss Sullivan's vigorous, original mind has lent much of its vitality to her pupil. If Miss Keller is fond of language and not interested especially in mathematics, it is not surprising to find Miss Sullivan's interests very similar.
  34. unremitting
    uninterrupted in time and indefinitely long continuing
    The two persons who have written authoritatively about Miss Keller's speech and the way she learned it are Miss Sarah Fuller, of the Horace Mann School for the Deaf in Boston, Massachusetts, who gave her the first lessons, and Miss Sullivan, who, by her unremitting discipline, carried on the success of these first lessons.
  35. modulation
    rise and fall of the voice pitch
    Her speech lacks variety and modulation; it runs in a sing-song when she is reading aloud; and when she speaks with fair degree of loudness, it hovers about two or three middle tones.
  36. detrimental
    causing harm or injury
    Too much stress, it seems to me, is often laid upon the importance of teaching a deaf child to articulate—a process which may be detrimental to the pupil's intellectual development.
  37. enunciate
    speak, pronounce, or utter in a certain way
    The great difficulty in the pronunciation of the r made it one of the last elements which she mastered. The ch, sh and soft g also gave her much trouble, and she does not yet enunciate them clearly.
  38. unrelenting
    not to be placated or appeased or moved by entreaty
    That is her tireless and unrelenting discipline, which is evident in all her work. She never allowed her pupil to send off letters which contained offenses against taste, but made her write them over until they were not only correct, but charming and well phrased.
  39. adaptation
    a written work that has been recast in a new form
    In the early part of her education I had full knowledge of all the books she read and of nearly all the stories which were read to her, and could without difficulty trace the source of any adaptations noted in her writing or conversation; and I have always been much pleased to observe how appropriately she applies the expressions of a favourite author in her own compositions.
  40. retentive
    good at remembering
    What a wonderfully active and retentive mind that gifted child must have! If she had remembered and written down accurately, a short story, and that soon after hearing it, it would have been a marvel; but to have heard the story once, three years ago, and in such a way that neither her parents nor teacher could ever allude to it or refresh her memory about it, and then to have been able to reproduce it so vividly...
  41. veracity
    unwillingness to tell lies
    She is absolutely truthful. Veracity is the strongest element of her character.
  42. intact
    lacking nothing essential, not damaged
    In this case Helen Keller held almost intact in her mind, unmixed with other ideas, the words of a story which at the time it was read to her she did not fully understand.
  43. didactic
    instructive, especially excessively
    It has the imaginative credulity of a primitive folktale; whereas Miss Canby's story is evidently told for children by an older person, who adopts the manner of a fairy tale and cannot conceal the mature mood which allows such didactic phrases as "Jack Frost as he is sometimes called," "Noon, at which time Mr. Sun is strongest."
  44. affectation
    a deliberate pretense or exaggerated display
    It was in these early days that Dr. Holmes wrote to her: "I am delighted with the style of your letters. There is no affectation about them, and as they come straight from your heart, so they go straight to mine."
  45. confine
    restrict or limit
    So long as she uses words correctly, she should be granted the privilege of using them freely, and not be expected to confine herself to a vocabulary true to her lack of sight and hearing.
Created on September 29, 2017 (updated October 5, 2017)

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