The poem Helen Keller is a poetic homage from a great African American poet, Langston Hughes, to a highly compelling figure, Helen Keller. This article contains the summary and critical analysis of Langston Hughes’s poem Helen Keller. But before probing directly into the topic, I’ll first tell you about Helen Keller and what she’s famous for.
Who was Helen Keller?
Helen Keller was a blind and deaf woman who became a symbol of courage and hope in the face of overwhelming odds. She was born on June 27, 1880 in Alabama, U.S. One of the leading humanitarians of the 20th century, she was also an outstanding American author and a socialist.
Was Helen Keller Blind and Deaf by birth?
The answer is ‘No’. Helen Keller was not blind and deaf by birth. Rather, she got an illness at the age of 19 months that eventually left her blind and deaf. When she was six years old her parents hired Anne Sullivan as a tutor for her. Ann Sullivan was a graduate of the Perkins School for the Blind. She became the lifelong instructor and companion of Helen Keller. She taught Helen that objects have names and by using her fingers she can spell them.
What were Helen Keller’s Accomplishments?
Over time, Helen made tremendous progress. She successfully learnt to communicate with the help of sign language. Also, she learnt to read and write in Braille, touch-lip read, finger-spell, and finally speak as well as type. At the age of 24, she graduated from Radcliffe College with a Bachelor of Arts degree.
At school, Helen Keller began her writing career. She wanted to write about her experiences. She wrote her first autobiographical book, The Story of My Life in 1903. After five years, she published her second book The World I Live In. Her other books such as Optimism, My Religion, Helen Keller’s Journal, and The Open Door also deal with the experiences of her life.
Helen Keller’s Vision
Helen Keller wanted to help and inspire all the disabled people like herself. She became their vocal advocate and gave them hope to find light within themselves. Additionally, she took up the cause of human rights and also protested the U.S. involvement in World War I. She also became the spokesperson of women’s suffrage and co-found the American Civil Liberties Union. Throughout her life, she traveled across the United States, advocating for the needs of disabled people especially with vision loss.
Helen Keller joined the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) in 1924 and initiated many campaigns to raise money, awareness and support for the foundation. She served as a spokesperson and ambassador for this foundation until the rest of her life. Helen Keller also worked to shape global policy on vision loss which made her an effective ambassador for disabled persons worldwide. She joined the Permanent Blind War Relief Fund (later called the American Braille Press) in 1915 and became a member of its first board of directors. Her tireless efforts resulted in creating various state commissions, rehabilitation centers, and educational institutions for the blind people.
Thus, Helen Keller dedicated her life to helping less fortunate and disabled people all over the world. She died while sleeping peacefully on June 1, 1968 in Westport, Connecticut. Helen Keller has left behind her a powerful example of determination, hard work, triumph over adversity, and persistence. She is still remembered as a highly respected, powerful, intelligent, and ambitious woman who, despite being a disable person, dedicated her life for the betterment of others.
Here is Helen Keller poem by Langston Hughes that reflects the “message of the strength of inner power”. You can save it for later.
Summary And Analysis of the poem Helen Keller by Langston Hughes
Langston Hughes, a revolutionary African American poet and writer, wrote Helen Keller poem in 1931 as a tribute to a person who, despite her disabilities, struggled throughout her life and never gave up hope.
Summary of Helen Keller by Langston Hughes
In the poem, the speaker says that despite being blind, Helen Keller found light in the darkness around her. Here, the speaker refers to an inner light that Helen Keller discovered within herself. The ‘inner light’ is actually the light of hope and strength she found while struggling in a world full of darkness and hopelessness. The speaker claims that this newly discovered light is, in fact, the brightest of all the existing lights in the world.
The speaker then tells the reader that though Helen Keller was unable to see the loveliness of the world, she found that liveliness ‘within herself’. Here, the speaker wants to say that her disability to see and hear eventually led her to listen to the mysteries of her soul and see its immortal beauty. He asserts that she was, indeed, a gifted person who could see what others couldn’t.
Furthermore, the speaker says that after learning from her own experiences, Helen Keller taught the world to learn from ‘inner power’, the power of immortal spirit. It is only this power that will lead them to ultimate success.
Critical Analysis of Helen Keller by Langston Hughes
Through his poem Helen Keller, Langston Hughes gives his people and the whole of humanity the message of hope, struggle, persistence, and determination.
Hughes tells us that despite being a deafblind, Helen Keller had a better vision than others. In the darkness surrounding her, she found the light that many of us can’t perceive even with our ability to see things clearly. Instead of finding a mortal beauty outside, she struggled to find the immortal beauty within her soul. By focusing on the life of Helen Keller, Langston Hughes tells his people the golden principles of life. He advises them to never give up hope. Although they are surrounded by racial discrimination and persecution, they’ll eventually find light, the light of freedom.
But in order to get freedom, according to Hughes, the people must have to explore themselves first. They’ll have to understand their own selves and bring out their inner talents. Only by doing this, they will be able to tell the world that they are not the people to be neglected or ostracized. Rather, they are as talented as the white people.
Hughes is telling the blacks that although they are not disabled but the racist society around them is making them so. It is constantly degrading and dehumanizing them. But, he says that we can overcome our miseries and troubles by learning from Helen Keller’s life and making ourselves strong from within.
Structural Analysis of Helen Keller
Langston Hughes wrote Helen Keller in free verse. In its construction, the poem is free from the limitations of regular meter or rhythm, and does not rhyme with fixed forms. The reader finds only two words, ‘dower’ and ‘power’ that rhyme in the poem. The structure of the poem reflects that Hughes doesn’t want to follow the conventional rules set by the society that limit his independence. Rather, he wants to freely pen down whatever comes in his mind.
The poem is very short and enjoyable. It consists of twelve lines, two of them containing only a single word ‘she’. Like other poems of Langston Hughes, this one is also written in a very simple language.
The Universal Nature of the Poem
Langston Hughes’ poem Helen Keller has universality. It gives the world a message that there is always a ray of light in the darkness. This light represents hope and leads us to discover our inner strength. If we get hold of this light, we will never get disappointed in life. This powerful message can benefit the whole of mankind.