Nella Larsen "Quicksand"
Nellallitea "Nella" Larsen (1893-1964)
Nella Larsen was a very successful African American Fiction writer. Nella Larsen's appearance with her writing of "Quicksand" and "Passing" won her the prestigious Guggenheim fellowship award for creative writing. Nella Larsen's work contains an overall view of the world from the Harlem Renaissance era, including a Feminist perspective. Themes included in the novel, remain as modern problems of today, middle-class verses lower-class issues and color consciousness. Nella Larsen was a light skinned biracial women who was born to a Danish mother and a Caribbean father on April 13, 1891, in Chicago and died on March 30, 1964.
"Nella" Larsen introduces the main character Helga Crane, a young girl of twenty two, with delicate but well turned arms and legs. Helga teaches at an elite southern school named Naxos (referenced to a Greek Island in the Aegean Sea). The school was an example of the theory that African Americans needed to improve their lot, the policy of "Black Uplift". The education at Naxos, implored no new ideas and tolerated no new innovations, in other words individualism was very discouraged. Helga becomes disenchanted with the hypocrisy at the prestigious school and begins re-evaluating her career choice as a teacher.
"The great community, she thought. was no longer a school. It had grown into a machine. It was now a show place in the black belt, exemplification of the Whiteman's magnanimity, refutation of the black man's inefficiency. Life had died out of it"
Helga after a reverse psychological debate with the new principal at the school, a Dr. Anderson, and struggling with guilt regarding a need for service to ones race in educating young students, Helga makes a decision. She boldly leaves the town of Naxos and boards a train bound for Chicago. She soon discovers that the city is not her home. In reality Helga has no home or friends. But, after a series of bad interviews and bad employment agencies, Helga finds herself employed as a paid companion to an educated Mrs. Hayes-Rore, as a speech coordinator and secretary of sorts.
"Helga Crane, who had been born in this dirty, mad, hurrying city, had no home here. She had not even any friends here." -Quicksand
"It was as if she was shut up, boxed up, with hundreds of her race, closed up with something in the racial character which had always been, to her, inexplicable, alien. Why, she demanded in fierce rebellion should she be yoked to these despised black folk?" -Quicksand
"So life went on. Dinners, coffees, theatres, pictures, music, clothes. More dinners, coffees, theatres, clothes, music. And that nagging aching for America increased. Augmented by the uncomfortableness of Aunt Katrina's and Uncle Paul's disappointment with her, that tormenting nostalgia grew to an unbearable weight." -Quicksand
"She had ruined everything. Ruined it because she had been so silly as to close her eyes to all the indications that pointed to the fact that no matter what the intensity of his feelings or desires might be, he was not the sort of man who would for any reason give up one particle of his own good opinion of himself. Not even for her. Not even though he knew that she wanted so terribly something special from him." -Quicksand
"She had ruined her life, made it impossible ever again to do the things that she wanted, have the things that she loved, and mingle with the people she liked. She had to put it brutally as anyone could, been a fool." -Quicksand
* The Wrong Man (1926) * Freedom (1926) * Quicksand (1928) * Passing (1929) * Sanctuary (1930)