Quicksand By Nella Larsen

1323 Words 6 Pages
The first encounter with Helga Crane, Nella Larsen’s protagonist in the novel Quicksand, introduces the heroine unwinding after a day of work in a dimly lit room. She is alone. And while no one else is present in the room, Helga is accompanied by her own thoughts, feelings, and her worrisome perceptions of the world around her. Throughout the novel, it becomes clear that most of Helga’s concerns revolve around two issues- race and sex. Even though there are many human character antagonists that play a significant role in the novel and in the story of Helga Crane, such as her friends, coworkers, relatives, and ultimately even her own children, her race and her sexuality become Helga’s biggest challenges. These two taxing antagonists …show more content…
Larsen uses this lacerating metaphor to jaggedly attack the attitudes and beliefs of Booker T. Washington, who sought to form schools to train blacks for specific occupations in low-skilled fields and “believed racial agitation was a course for disaster” (Hill 6). Helga credits her unease at Naxos to “a quality within herself” that she cannot understand (Larsen 12). Helga soon confesses her bi-racial frustration to the principal, Dr. Anderson, but only after becoming disturbed by her sexual attraction towards him. Helga’s first confrontation with Dr. Anderson almost leaves her speechless! Larsen describes Helga’s reaction as an “inward confusion” that felt to her “like hysteria” (Larsen 18). Larsen again only hints at this attraction, in an indirect manner. A careful analysis of the text, however, will make her point obvious. Larsen illustrates Helga’s sexual temptation regarding Dr. Anderson with clever insinuations. As their conversation develops, Helga is overcome by a “mystifying yearning” that “throbbed in her” (Larsen 20). Larsen uses words, such as “desire” and “urge” in conjunction with Helga’s inner thoughts to delicately express Helga’s sexual enticement in the wake of Anderson’s charm (Larsen 20). It is in this meeting with Anderson that Helga’s sexual feelings clash with her bi-racial insecurity. The resulting emotions from this inner conflict leave Helga with a sense of “lacerated pride” that