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The Story of My Life Summary Chapter 20
Helen writes about her entry to Radcliffe College and the challenges she faced while attending lectures and writing examinations.
Helen qualified to enter Radcliffe College. However, she took another year before she finally joined it. She began her studies with eagerness. But her romantic illusions about life in college slowly disappeared, as she realised its disadvantages. The biggest disadvantage was the lack of time to think and ruminate over all the facts and figures she was exposed to during lectures. Attending lectures became a challenge, and Miss Sullivan tried hard to pass on all the information to Helen.
The lectures were spelt into her hand as rapidly as possible, but the personal style of the lecturer was lost in the effort to keep up in the race. The words just rushed through her hand and there was no time for her to commune her thoughts. The chapter also expresses Helen’s growing despondency with the typewriter.
Very few books that were required for the various courses were printed for the blind and she had no other option but to have them spelt out in her hand. Helen fondly remembers her instructor in English composition who brought literature before her in all its originality and power.
She worked hard to overcome the frustrating obstacles in the path of her attaining knowledge, especially facing examinations which according to her were the chief bugbears of her college life.
The Story of My Life Summary Chapter 20 Questions and Answers
Why did Helen delay her admission to college?
Helen delayed her admission because everyone advised her to study for another year with Mr Keith before joining college.
How did Helen feel on entering Radcliffe?
At first, Helen was excited and happy to have realised her dream of studying at Radcliffe, but slowly she started feeling disillusioned and realised that there were many disadvantages of going to college.
What was the biggest disadvantage of college, according to Helen?
Helen felt that the greatest disadvantage of college was the lack of time to think or reflect on what they were taught.
What does Helen mean when she says that she prefers “present day joy to hoarding riches against a rainy day”?
Helen felt that college studies were so exhaustive that one hardly had enough time to understand and internalise all the available knowledge. Helen wished to leam at a slower pace and enjoy the present, than store all the knowledge to be understood sometime in the future.
How did Helen understand the lectures given by her professors? What were the disadvantages of this method?
The lectures were spelled onto Helen’s hand as quickly as possible. The disadvantage of this method was that she had no time to pay any attention to the core of the subject or to understand the personality of the lecturers. She lost out on the flavour in a bid to know everything.
How did Helen write her answers?
Helen wrote her answers on a typewriter. She used the Hammond typewriter, which had movable type . shuttle. It could be fitted with different shuttles, each with a different set of characters: Greek, French or mathematics, according to the subject she wanted to study.
What were the other challenges that Helen faced?
Helen faced several problems. Very few of the books she needed were printed in Braille, which meant that all the information had to be spelt out on her hand. This made her learning quite time consuming.
Why did Helen enjoy her composition classes?
The teacher, Mr Charles Townsend Copeland was a witty and vivacious man, whose lessons were always interesting. This made Helen enjoy the composition classes.
What made Helen enjoy the second year of college?
Helen enjoyed the second year in college more, because she studied subjects like economics, Elizabethan literature, Shakespeare and philosophy, which made her feel happy.
Why did Helen object to elaborate explanations of the lessons by her teachers?
Helen felt that too many explanations acted as a barrier to one’s appreciation of the text. She felt that one should be allowed to enjoy the texts on one’s own rather than have them dissected and analysed.
What were Helen’s views on reading just to pass the examinations?
Helen felt that if one studied only to pass the exams, then it was like taxing ones brains without really understanding anything. Hence, the mind was unable to enjoy’and appreciate the beauty of the texts one was reading.
Why did Helen call exams the “bugbear” of her college life?
Helen called exams the “bugbear” of college life because the thought of appearing for examinations made her very nervous. The day before the exam was spent memorising formulae and facts, until she was completely overwhelmed by them. Finally, in the exam hall when she tried to recall the facts, she would feel like she had forgotten everything.
What did Helen say she had learnt from her time spent in college?
Helen said that she had learnt the importance of patience and the fact that learning cannot be rushed. She also found that knowledge was power, because true knowledge equips one to differentiate true from false and lofty from mean. These thoughts helped her understand how man has progressed through the centuries, towards more and more elevated thought.