Sunday, October 7, 2012
Helen Keller's life. A movie and her book
I watched the black-and-white movie "A Miracle Worker" which focuses on Helen Keller's childhood. It touched me deeply. The greatest accomplishment of the movie was to kindle my curiosity. I wanted to learn more about the cave of darkness and silence she lived in, and how she was able to finally make sense of the world. Right after seeing this movie I came across her autobiography, "The Story of My Life".
Her path to understand that signs with hands were associated with real objects and words was not an easy one, but her ultimate discovery is a unique experience that can bring hope to the saddest soul.
If you are longing to see a movie that will uplift you and make you feel hopeful, this is a good one to pick. Helen Keller's parents did their best for her, but Helen was like a violent animal who did not respect civilized rules until Anne Sullivan, her teacher, came to her life three days before she turned seven years old. Anne Sullivan had been blind herself and so she was able to help her from a unique position. It was not an easy endeavor and the movie portrays it with details that will test your patience.
Helen described how her life changed after she met Anne Sullivan:
"Have you ever been at sea in a dense fog, when it seemed as if a tangible white darkness shut you in, and the great ship, tense and anxious, groped her way toward the shore with plummet and sounding line, and you waited with a beating heart for something to happen? I was like that ship before any education began, only I was without compass or sounding line, and had no way of knowing how near the harbor was. I felt approaching footsteps. I stretched out my hand as I supposed to my mother. Someone took it, and I was caught up and held close in the arms of her who had come to reveal all things to me, and, more than all things else, to love me."
In my opinion,the only weakness of the movie is the distorted way of portraying Helen's parents' love for her, as if this had been a contributing factor to her misery during the first childhood years, before they met their teacher. On the contrary, their love played an important role even though they did not know how to set boundaries. Her father also had some misconceptions that were not in her best interest, but Anne Sullivan made the big difference here. Anyway, my point is that it was not their love that caused the initial failure but their lack of guidance and insight on how to raise her.
Helen's Autobiography has many interesting insights and reflections about different subjects. One of them is her college experience. Reading her book also helped me to understand that disabilities are compensated for by other "abilities" and sensitivities.
"The touch of some hands is an impertinence. I have met people so empty of joy, that when I clasped their frosty finger tips it seemed as if I were shaking hands with a northeast storm. Others there are whose hands have sunbeams in them, so that their grasp warms my heart. It may be only the clinging touch of a child's hand, but there is much potential sunshine in it for me as there is a loving glance for others. A hearty handshake or a friendly letter gives me a genuine pleasure."
Much of Helen's adult life was spent bettering the conditions of blind and deaf people. Her lectures and writings brought hope and encouragement to blind people throughout the world. I can say without hesitation that she is an inspiration to all of us.