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Alexander Graham Bell's design sketch of the telephone, ca. 1876.

[Detail] Alexander Graham Bell's design sketch of the telephone

Language Arts Themes

Friendship and Love, Family, and Conflict and Resolution are among the themes in language arts curriculum represented in this collection. The correspondence regarding Bell's desire to marry Mabel Hubbard, one of his deaf students, provides an ideal opportunity to examine a combination of themes dealing with love, family, and conflict resolution. Students can search on Mabel to find these letters

On August 18, 1875, Bell sent a letter to his mother rebuking the family's failure to respond to his intent to marry Mabel. He refers to an earlier letter from his mother in which she warned her son to consider carefully his intentions to marry a "congenital deaf mute." Bell's mother's response on August 23 is a tactful reply; however, in a letter dated August 30, she lectures him on his harsh letter and writes of how he has troubled his father.

On August 29, Bell wrote to Mabel of his intent to return home and attempt to work matters out with his father. On the same day, Bell's father responded to his son's "unintelligible telegram" and reminds him of his responsibility to adhere to filial piety.

Students can continue reading this series of letters relating to Bell's desire to marry Mabel Hubbard by searching June 30, 1875 for a letter from Bell to Alexander Melville Bell and Eliza Symonds Bell and November 25, 1875 for his letter to Mabel Hubbard.

  • What specific issues does the family argue over? What complaints and objects are voiced?
  • How does the family resolve the issue of Bell's intent to marry Mabel?
  • How is love expressed? How are anger and frustration expressed?
  • Compare this correspondence of letters to a phone conversation. How would the communications be different? How would tone of voice influence people? For example, what if one person was yelling or crying? How might that effect the listener? How might the passage of time between letters have effected the conversation?