The Life of Helen Keller, A Series - Part 3 Taken For Granted

A multi-part, in-depth series on the life of Helen Keller. Part 3: Taken for Granted

In having lost both sight and hearing, Helen relied heavily on her remaining senses. One day, however, Helen felt helpless as she inextricably and unexpectedly lost her sense of smell and taste. Helen did not have the foreknowledge that this loss would only last a few days, and it had a profound affect on the young woman. While trivial to people who can see and hear, to Helen, taste and smell were half of her world. Helen wrote of this experience, “The loss of smell for a few days gave me a clearer idea than I had ever had what it is to be blinded suddenly, helplessly.”[i]

In losing her sight and hearing before the time she could remember, Helen had not a notion of what the sudden loss of sense did to the soul. “I knew then what it must be when the great curtain shuts out suddenly the light of day, the stars, and the firmament itself,” wrote Helen.[ii]

A few days later, Helen regained her lost senses. From this detrimental experience, Helen learned the true value of the senses she still retained – even senses seemingly insignificant as smell and taste. Helen used this experience to inform others to value not only the senses they had, but also the minutia of the world which senses detect:

“Hold out your hands to feel the luxury of the sunbeams. Press the soft blossoms against your cheek, the ginger their graces of form, their delicate mutability of shape, their pliancy and freshness. Expose your face to the aërial floods that sweep the heavens, inhale great draughts of space, wonder, wonder at the wind’s unwearied activity. Pile note on note the infinite music that flows increasingly to your soul from the actual sonorities of a thousand braces and tumbling waters.”[iii]


[i]Helen Keller, The World I Live In,

(New York: The Century Co., 1908), pg. 79.

[ii]Keller, The World I Live In, pg. 79.

[iii]Keller, The World I Live In, pg. 82.


© Matthew Gordon, 2011

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