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Thursday, July 7, 2011

1. Study two or three decisions that Helga Crane makes in QUICKSAND. In whatways are they representative of her mental processes and the ultimate meaningof Larsen's novel?

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1. Study two or three decisions that Helga Crane makes in QUICKSAND. In what


ways are they representative of her mental processes and the ultimate meaning


of Larsens novel?


¡°Quicksand¡± by Nella Larsen is an exploration of the many decisions made by Helga Krane, our main character. We follow Helga from her life as a teacher at Naxos, a school that was seen as ¡°a show in the black belt¡± (Chapter 1). From Naxos we watch Helga as she takes many paths towards the conclusion of the novel where we are shown Helga wrestling and procrastinating with the many decisions that she has taken that have brought her to this final, unfulfilling climax.


Custom Essays on 1. Study two or three decisions that Helga Crane makes in QUICKSAND. In whatways are they representative of her mental processes and the ultimate meaningof Larsen's novel?


To understand the meaning of the novel and also the mental process that Helga Krane goes through this paper will examine two major decisions that Helga took throughout the duration of the novel, and how they affected her and our understanding of the overall meaning of the novel.


One of the biggest issues in Helga Kranes¡¯ life is the fact that she is the product of a white mother and a black father. In 10s America this truly was a terrible affliction as it meant you were unlikely to be truly accepted by either race, be it Whites or Blacks. Naxos school was known for ¡°its air of self-rightness and intolerant dislike of difference¡±(Chapter 1). ¡°Negro society, she had learned, was as complicated and as rigid in its ramifications as the highest strata of white society. If you couldnt prove your ancestry and connections, you were tolerated, but you didnt belong¡±(Chapter 8).¡±


Helga always saw herself as Black and in the books opening immerses herself in the Black lifestyle that was Harlem in the 10s, but it was this inward looking attitude the Blacks had that originally drove Helga to leave the USA. Chapter 1 presents us with Helga leaving the ¡°cliff-like towers¡± (Chapter 1) of New York as she embarks on her journey to Copenhagen. The decision to leave the USA was taken in Chapter 10 upon the receipt of a gift/inheritance of $5000 received from her uncle. This money however only gave Helga the means to leave the USA, not also a motive. As this paper has already discussed, this motive was very much involved with her contemporaries ignorant view that all whites were to be mistrusted and not accepted. In Helgas circle of friends this view extended to the belief that there should be no integration between the two races what so ever. Helga found these opinions hard to contemplate and to truly understand why she made the decision to leave lets examine Chapter 11. Although Chapter 11 occurs after Helga had already made her decision to leave, the episode in the dancing bar with her friend and landlady, Anne is a perfect example of the inward looking opinions that Helga was confronted with every day. In this dancing bar we have Helga, Anne and other friends sitting round a table when they see Dr Anderson who is a man known to Helga from her days at Naxos and is known to the rest of the group through mutual friends. Dr Anderson is sitting with a lady named Audrey Denney and it is the reaction of Helga¡¯s table to Dr Andersons association with Audrey Denney that shows the reader just how deep the dislike of whites and race integration goes within Helga¡¯s circle of friends. The tables dislike of Denney, ¡°The disgusting creature¡± (Chapter 11) stems from the fact that she occasionally has parties where she invites Blacks and Whites. At these parties the Blacks and Whites integrate to the extent that it is not unknown for black woman to dance with white men and vice versa. ¡°Why, she gives parties for white and colored people together. And she goes to white peoples parties. Its worse than disgusting, its positively obscene¡± (Chapter11)


¡°You can¡¯t get round the fact that her behavior is outrageous, treacherous, in fact. That¡¯s the matter with the negro race. They won¡¯t stick together¡±(Chapter 11)


One of two conclusions can be drawn here. The first been that Helen would perhaps not have been so rude and insensitive in her opinion about white people had she know that Helga was the product of a mixed race ¡°relationship¡±. The second is that had Helen been aware that Helga was the product of a mixed relationship she would then never have taken Helga in and this conversation would never have occurred in the first place. Helga¡¯s mental process here is clearly defined in the closing paragraph of the Chapter.


¡°At last, panting, confused, but thankful to have escaped, she found herself again out in the dark night alone, a small crumpled thing in a fragile, flying back gold dress. A taxi drifted towards her, stopped. She stepped into it, feeling cold, unhappy, misunderstood, and forlorn.¡± (Chapter 11) The word requiring most examination from this passage is ¡°escaped¡±, we know that Helga wanted to escape from the bar and the people that she was interacting with in there, but we can also assume that this word, ¡°escape¡± has very much deeper connotations and that Helga felt that in New York that she was an outsider never to be accepted for who she truly was by either race of people. We now have a motive for Helgas decision to leave New York but what must not be ignored is also Helgas personality and how she adapts to new environments. Throughout he novel Helga moves to and settles in many different places. What must be taken from this constant settling and then moving on is that Helga is not a person who settles well any where and no matter where Helga goes, be it New York, Copenhagen or rural Alabama, she will never be completely happy for a long period of time as she is not the kind of person who can enjoy life without the promise of change and renewal always lying on the horizon.


The second decision Helga makes that is vital to the novel and the development of her as a character occurs in Chapter 0 when Helga, whom is overwhelmed by a huge rain storm decides to seek shelter in a Mission. The religious imagery of this rain storm must be noted. It can be considered that a biblical storm sent by God is what caused Helga to enter this mission and the decision to do this has arguably the biggest impact on her life of any decision she has taken throughout the novel. The fact that the worshipers are singing ¡°Showers of blessing¡± is very important as well and this can also draw our conclusion that Helga¡¯s entrance to this missionary is decided by fate and not chance. We are then confronted with the group singing ¡°Jesus knows all about my troubles¡± again, it can be felt that is this is an occurrence of fate instead of random chance.


The emotional ¡°cleansing¡± that Helga experience when she begins to embrace Christianity is obvious. ¡°She couldn¡¯t be sure that it wasn¡¯t religion that her feel so utterly different from dreadful yesterday¡± (Chapter 1) When we compare this line with ¡°And now she had forfeited it forever. Forever. Helga had an instantaneous shocking perception of what forever meant. And then, like a flash, it was gone, leaving an endless stretch of dreary years before her appalled vision(Chapter 1).¡± We can truly see how important the decision for Helga to seek shelter in the ¡°store whose blurred light she had marked for her destination¡± (Chapter 0). At first Christianity does truly appear to show her the guiding light that has been lacking from her life. The apparent spontaneity in her decision to marry Reverend Green shows the change in her mental process. ¡°And so in the confusion of seductive repentance Helga Crane was married¡±(Chapter ) We know that just as Helga was happy when she arrived in Copenhagen and New York she appears to be very content ¡°in the bleak air of poverty¡±(Chapter ) in Alabama that she has given up the lights of New York for. We know that it did take a long time for Helga to dislike the small Alabama town, but just as before, it did happen. ¡°Helga did not hate him, the town, or the people. No. Not for a long time¡±(Chapter )


Lets now look at Helgas mental condition as she took the decision to seek refuge in the shelter. Before she decided to take the walk in the rain that led to the mission she is extremely depressed. Helga knows that her ¡°relationship¡± with Dr Anderson is definitely over and she currently has nothing on the horizon for her to look forward to. The walk on the rain was done on impulse and from what we can tell she does not really appear to be thinking clearly at all.


¡°Helga Crane, walking rapidly, aimlessly could decide on no definite destination¡± (Chapter 0) The apparent haste at which Helga gets married in is in direct contrast to that of her two year long engagement to James Vayle which leads the reader to believe that at her time of meeting Reverend Green her mental process was definitely different to that of her mental process when she had been at Naxos. It can be argued that the whole sorry episode that occurred with Dr Anderson has made Helga vulnerable to the charms of any man and also made her decision to embrace Christianity all the easier to take.


To draw a conclusion we must compare and contrast the two decisions that Helga took together. Looking at the first decision we have Helga rejecting something, in this case Harlem and the inward looking attitude she felt it represented. The second decision has Helga embracing something, in this case Christianity and Reverend Green. By looking at these two decisions together what strikes the reader first and foremost is the fact that they both have a common conclusion, this been Helga becoming discontent and unhappy with her surroundings. When we compare ¡°well into Helga¡¯s second year in Denmark, came an indefinite discontent. Not clear but vague, like a storm gathering far on the horizon¡±(Chapter 15) with the line in chapter , ¡°Helga did not hate him, the town, or the people. No. Not for a long time¡±(Chapter ) we see a very common link and can accept that a large meaning of the book can be found in the continual and inevitable discontent that Helga appears to always feel after any duration of time greater than around a year spent in the same environment. In closing one can only assume that no matter if Helga chooses to reject or embrace something the result will always be the same. This poignant fact only makes her fifth pregnancy all the more depressing.


¡°They had never liked the engagement, had never liked Helga Crane. Her own lack of family disconcerted them. No family. That was the crux of the whole matter. For Helga it accounted for everything, her failure here in Naxos, her former loneliness in Nashville. It even accounted for her engagement to James. (Larsen 8)


Quick Sand Nella Larsen


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