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Quicksand by Nella Larsen - A Literary Essay Example

4 pages
909 words
Boston College
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The "Quicksand by Nella Larsen" gives details concerning the involvement and the nature of a woman from a mixed-race, and I caught between two cultures that Larsen explains in every part of the book. The experiences are mentioned in writing giving the different definitions concerning the involvement of the entire set (Larsen, 1986). With Helga Crane being the woman in the discussion, this paper will deliver details concerning her experiences and decisions she makes.

Who is Helga Crane?

As the novel commences, Helga Crane is a 20-year-old woman from mixed-races who teaches as Naxos, which is a boarding school. Helga is bound between two races, such that, her father is a black while, on the other hand, her mother is white. With a proper focus upon the setting of the novel, Helga Crane, the protagonist in the book, is a woman that is lonely and her life is at a point where life is gloom as she does not know what to do since she feels isolated. With the mixture of the races, she is dark-skinned which influences her life as she faces ostracization from both the blacks and also the whites. In most the setting and definition of the novel, she represents the two races and experiences the struggle of one being a white to the blacks cultural or racial setting as she faces isolation, and also meets the battle of being a black in a whites cultural setting.

Helgas Background

However, considering all the details in the novel, Helga Cranes background falls upon the involvement and family setting. With her mother being white and the father black, Helgas father leaves and abandons the wife and Helga crane, and after a short period, the mother gets remarried by a white man. As she grows in the white stepfamily, she still faces the hardships as an adult as she seeks the acceptance into the society.

Experiences and Decisions of Helga Crane

Nonetheless, different things happen to Helga Crane through the entire set of the novel. First, she is frustrated by the principal where she is teaching and expresses her feelings concerning the challenges she is going through, but he seems less interested. With everything happening, she decides to leave and breaks her engagement to James, her fiancee when she later decides to travel north and live with Peter, her mothers brother in Chicago. Upon her arrival, she is sent away by Peter's wife who claims she is not related to the family.

Furthermore, she stays at Chicago and struggles so much to find a job when she luckily gets hired by a traveling black lecturer, Mrs. Hayes-Rore. The lecturer is in need of assistance about her speech about racial equality and travels to New York where she meets with Anne Grey. Her new friend treats her well and involves her in her social life which makes Helga feel at home. Later in the setting and development of their friendship, Helga feels discontent about with Anne Grey and her life in Harlem.

With the discontent about the black culture of Harlem, Helga decides to go to Copenhagen, to visit Katrina, her mothers sister. Within the timeframe, before she travels, she attends the dinner parties hosted by Anne and sees Dr. Anderson settled with Audrey Denney, a woman that Helga admires but Anne hates her. Upon arrival at her mothers sister home, she is warmly welcomed, but she turns Helga as an attraction. Later on, Katrina renders pressure to Helga to have a relationship with Axel Olsen, who is Katrinas friends and even paints Helga portrait.

Correspondingly, Axel Olsen proposes to Katrina, but she renders the proposal as appropriate as she feels that he is comparing her to a prostitute referring himself as the highest bidder. The relatives are displeased with her refusal and are disappointed by her actions. With the happening of the events, Dr. Anderson marries Anne and Helga decides to return to New York where she stays with the newly married couple. Anne acts cold towards Helga because she left. In one of the parties, Helga Crane meets her ex-fiancee who tells Helga that he would like to propose to her again and the share a kiss. Later, he apologizes for everything that happened and blames it all on the alcohol which leaves Helga hurt and runs off into the street to a small church where the congregation begs her to stay and come to Jesus.

In different occurrences, many things happen to Helga Crane as she tries to fit in the society and feels comfortable with everything. She makes decisions that in one way or the other impact her life and things change with every decision. With everything she has gone through she decides to join Christianity where she chooses to marry the churchs leader, Reverend Pleasant Green. They both move to Alabama where Helga in entitled to playing the role of a preachers wife. Within the entire setting, she gives birth to two twin boys and a girl. Also, Helga loses her fourth child who brings back the old memories and knows she can never abandon her children since this is now her life.

To sum everything up, I think Helgas decisions were tied in with the challenges she faced from her mixed-race. She experiences hard times and events but still does not give up which implies on her strength, but she never finds true acceptance in any of the places.


Larsen, N. (1986). Quicksand and passing. Rutgers University Press.

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