Helen Keller

Helen Keller
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海伦凯勒——坚强伟大的女性,真正的美国偶像

Helen Keller

Helen Keller was born on 27 June, 1880 in Alabama. Before her illness she was a lively and healthy child with a friendly personality. She could walk and even say a few simple words. Helen was less than two years old when a fever struck dramatically and left her unconscious. The fever cut her off from the outside world, depriving her of sight and sound. It was as if she had been thrown into a dark prison cell from which there could be no release. Luckily Helen was not someone who gave up easily. Soon she began to explore the world by using her other senses. She touched and smelled everything she came across and felt other people's hands to see what they were doing. She copied their actions and was soon able to do certain jobs herself, like milking the cows or kneading dough. She even learnt to recognise people by feeling their faces or their clothes. She could also tell where she was in the garden by the smell of the different plants and the feel of the ground under her feet. By the age of seven she had invented over 60 different signs by which she could talk to her family. If she wanted bread for example, she would pretend to cut a loaf and butter the slices. If she wanted ice cream she wrapped her arms around herself and pretended to shiver. Helen was unusual in that she was extremely intelligent and also remarkably sensitive. By her own efforts she had managed to make some sense of an alien and confusing world. But even she had limitations.

At the age of five Helen began to realise she was different from other people. She noticed that her family did not use signs like she did but talked with their mouths. Sometimes she stood between two people and touched their lips. She could not understand what they said and she could not make any meaningful sounds herself. She wanted to talk but no matter how she tried she could not make herself understood. This made her so angry that she used to hurl herself around the room, kicking and screaming in frustration.

As incredible as learning language may seem, Helen's greater achievement came after Anne Sullivan, her companion and protector. Anne understood the cause of Helen's tantrums. She knew that if she could teach her to communicate she would become a different person. Even so, before she could teach this wild child, she had to control her. When she tried to get Helen to do something she didn't like, Helen would scream and kick and bite. Anne eventually won these battles by sheer willpower and persistence.

But, oh, the great change that came over Helen when she discovered that words were related to things! It's like the words of that song: "On a clear day, rise and look around you, and you'll see who you are." The next breakthrough came when Anne decided to teach Helen the manual alphabet. This is a sign language in which each letter is signed onto the hand of the deaf-blind person so that he or she can feel it. This means that words and sentences can be spelt. It also means that complex ideas can be expressed.

Helen once wrote, "My teacher put my hand into the water as it poured out. As the cool stream poured over one of my hands, she spelled into the other the word water, first slowly, then rapidly. I stood still; my whole attention was fixed on the motion of her fingers. Suddenly I seemed to remember something I had forgotten. I felt a thrill of returning thought. Somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that 'w-a-t-e-r' meant that wonderful cool something that was pouring over my hand. That living word awakened my soul and set it free."

As a result Helen became gentler and she soon learnt to read and write in Braille. She also learnt to read people's lips by pressing her fingertips against them and feeling the movement and vibrations. It is a skill that very, very few people manage to acquire. She also learnt to speak, a major achievement for someone who could not hear at all.

Eventually Anne decided that Helen needed more formal instruction if she was to achieve her ambition of going to college. In 1888 they both went to the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston. Here Anne continued to teach Helen but with the equipment and books provided by the school. Then in 1894 they went to the Wright-Humason School for the Deaf in New York. Anne attended the lessons with Helen and acted as her interpreter. She tapped out what the teachers said into Helen's hand and transcribed book after book into Braille.

Helen proved to be a remarkable scholar, graduating with honours from Radcliffe College in 1904. She had phenomenal powers of concentration and memory, as well as a dogged determination to succeed. While she was still at college she wrote The Story of My Life which was an immediate success. Miss Keller's other published works include Optimism, an essay; The World I Live In; The Song of the Stone Wall; Out of the Dark; My Religion; Midstream — My Later Life; Peace at Eventide; Helen Keller in Scotland; Helen Keller's Journal; Teacher, Anne Sullivan Macy, etc.

She proved how language could liberate the blind and the deaf. She wrote, "Literature is my utopia. Here I am not disenfranchised." But how she struggled to master language?In her book Midstream, she wrote about how she was frustrated by the English letters, by the language of the deaf, even with the speed with which her teacher spelled things out for her on her palm. She was impatient and hungry for words, and her teacher's scribbling on her hand would never be as fast, she thought, as the people who could read the words with their eyes. With language, Keller, who could not hear and could not see, proved she could communicate in the world of sight and sound — and was able to speak to it and live in it. Keller also proved that the disabled can be independent. She was once asked how disabled soldiers of World War II should be treated and said that they do "not want to be treated as heroes. They want to be able to live naturally and to be treated as human beings." Because of her example, the world has given way a little.

Helen was very religious and her faith led her to examine the world more and more carefully. She began to realise that there was great injustice in the world and that people were not treated equally. Blindness was often caused by disease which was itself often caused by poverty. She became a suffragette and a socialist, demanding equal rights for women and better pay for working class people. She had such left-leaning opinions that the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover kept a file on her.

She also helped set up the American Foundation for the Blind in order to provide better services to people with impaired vision. She toured the country, giving lecture after lecture. Many books were written about her and several plays and films were made about her life.

And who were her choices for the most important people of the century? Thomas Edison, Charlie Chaplin and Lenin. Furthermore, she did not think appearing on the circuit, showing off her skills, was beneath her, even as her friends were shocked that she would venture onto the vulgar stage. She was complex. Her main message was and is, "We're like everybody else. We're here to be able to live a life as full as any sighted person's. And it's O.K. to be ourselves." That means we have the freedom to be as extraordinary as the sighted. Keller loved an audience and wrote that she adored "the warm tide of human life pulsing round and round me." That's why the stage appealed to her, why she learned to speak and to deliver speeches. And to feel the vibrations of music, of the radio, of the movement of lips.

Helen Keller died on June 1, 1968, at Arcan Ridge. Her ashes were placed next to her beloved companions, Anne Sullivan and Polly Thomson.

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  • 来源:外教社 2016-06-28