Larsen Quicksand Essay

When we are first introduced to Helga in the predominantly black society of Naxos, she is being taught to avoid alluding to primitivism in her behaviour. Du Bois[ii] was accused by some African-Americans of striving to emulate.She is simultaneously expected to adopt a culture alien to her, and conform to the bourgeoisie white-American behaviour W. The suffocating atmosphere Helga tries to escape from is illustrated through a merger of white bourgeoisie behaviour, and black culture and history.Not only do we witness rejection and social status as inter-racial features, but also as intra-racial one.

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The issues surrounding ‘mulatto’ individuals of the Harlem Renaissance allowed no solace in one particular race.The novella discusses the social and mental effects of racism and oppression through the eyes of a female African-American during the Harlem Renaissance in America and Europe.The protagonist’s struggle to find her ‘self’ and ‘place’ in society is extended across the four cities we see her travel between.Larsen alludes to Helga’s trajectory into this class through the brief perspective of Anne, who “… that though she herself was lovely – more beautiful than Helga – and interesting, with her, [Dr.Anderson] had not to struggle against that nameless and to him shameful impulse, that sheer delight, which ran through his nerves at mere proximity to Helga.”[iv] The “impulse” is not applicable to Du Bois’ tenth, therefore highlighting it as an anomaly and a preventative trait in this text.Larsen affectively uses race to discuss social inequality, but also features class in order to accentuate the struggles Africa-Americans faced in local, national, and global scales. [ii] Du Bois believed in total integration between blacks and whites, both socially and politically.References [i] Kimberly Monda, (African American Review, Vol. In doing this, he was accused of trying to imitate white culture, and abandon the heritage of Africa-Americans. Levine, (The Norton Anthology of American Literature, Vol D: 1914-1945, 2012), p. [v] ‘The Roaring Twenties’ after the First World War in the lead up to the Wall Street Crash was made visible with the aesthetic materialism that engulfed the Westernized consumerism of America.This polarised identity from the one she was used to having projected on her in America, is one that Jeffrey Gray recognises through the “…shuttling geographical movement [that] also corresponds to the binarism [of the] primitive vs.Materialism and vanity that erupted during this decade.Larsen reflects this through the text in the relentless use of imagery, idealising Helga’s ‘mulatto’ identity just as native[vi] European’s of the time would have. Nilssen’s point of view, [and] her mother’s, her stepfather’s and his children’s points of view…”[viii] engage the readers in understanding the rift deep within America between the black and white populations.


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