During the late 19th century and early 20th century the myth of Helen Keller as saintly beacon of love become a common cultural currency. She was known as a miracle child who beat her physical afflictions with indomitable courage and prowess. Representations of her life and activities through contemporary newspaper, journal, magazines within the discourse of disability elevates her to an iconic status from flesh and blood human being. From an early childhood she became the centre of public attention and sympathy. She was called saint, idol, miracle child. The text “The Story of My Life” first appeared as a series of several instalments in the Ladies Home Journal in 1902. In 1903 it was published as a book. This text was also an attempt to rebuild that iconic identity .Identity is always a matter of representations and a continuous performance over those representations.
My paper will concern --
1. What are the representational strategies she undertook to rebuild her image of a saint or miracle child?
2. This myth of Helen Keller made her immensely popular public persona. So my next concern will be--
How far does the present text become a document of her public self?
At the very outset of the text we come to know that a dreadful disease snatched both her eyes and ears and plunged her whole being into utter darkness. Anne Sullivan came to rescue this semi-wild child. Throughout the text it is deliberately stressed that a deaf blind overcame her utmost difficulties in a beatific and electric manner. It was a conscious effort on her part to make reader realize the way she snipped her problems away, rather than the problems themselves. It was accentuated in details that how much moral fibre she had to show to communicate with others by using signs, to learn moderate behaviour, to acquire the power of language , to learn Braille and manual alphabets, to admit in Radcliffe college , to understand the class lectures and finally to complete her graduation . Later Keller repented for making her struggles appear too easy.
Rhetoric of optimism is run through the text, so that she can be turned into a model of inspiration. At that time when these kind of handicapped children were shut away in asylum, she tasted her childhood enjoyments to the last dregs. She enjoyed canoeing on moonlit night, sailing, spinning on her tandem bicycle, going to the theatre, knitting, and playing chess, cards, swimming and many more.
She was not run-of-the-mill kind of child. She was mentally more matured than the children of her own age. So the children might be her playmate but could not be her soul mate. Her soul mates like Ann Sullivan and Graham Bell were all elder than her.
A saint should not be allowed to transverse the ethical limits of purity. Here she always represented herself as “Pure” as nature. She was shown as nature’s darling child. So nature would be the exact backdrop which feed and stimulate her “Pure” image. It...