Quicksand Analysis Essay

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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. Alone. Or, is she? Although 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. Helga’s anxieties and fears are perhaps some of her most challenging adversaries. And while there are human character antagonists that will soon play a

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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). Even the school’s principal, Dr. Anderson, confesses that Naxos is encompassed with “lies, injustice, and hypocrisy” (Larsen 19). Crane can no longer remain at Naxos due to these critical conflicting circumstances, so she decides to migrate north to Chicago.

On the journey to Chicago Helga encounters another subtle antagonist. This time her contender is segregation. Helga is tired, hot, thirsty, and annoyed in the crowded and uncomfortable train. A Jim Crow train nevertheless, where blacks are separated and subjected to less hospitable accommodations than the white passengers. Helga wants very much to acquire a sleeping compartment. Unfortunately, blacks are not permitted to do so. Larsen uses the train conductor’s dialog to reinforce the understanding that blacks were expected to have in regards to segregation. The response of the train conductor emphasizes this idea, simply stating “No, you know you can’t” (Larsen 23). The live chickens are used to highlight the disparity of the racial injustice in this type of treatment. Blacks were treated (and seated) right alongside the animals. Helga, however, persistently takes a stand against this segregation. And eventually
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