“These people yapped loudly of race, of race consciousness, of race pride, and yet suppressed its most delightful manifestations, love of color, joy of rhythmic motion, naive, spontaneous laughter. Harmony, radiance, and simplicity, all the essentials of spiritual beauty in the race they had marked for destructions.”Nella Larsen
Why I’m Reading this Book?
Quicksand is the first novel published by Nella Larsen. I’ve read her ‘Passing’ and was deeply affected by it. Review of Quicksand are also exemplary, So i’ve decided to read it.
Story of beautiful Helga crane, with mixed racial background, trying to find a position in society. Because of her background, she never feels at ease and is constantly searching for the meaning of her life. It’s said that this novel draws parallel from writer’s own background as Helga and Nella both have quite a lot common between them.
This novel traces Helga’s life journey and her dissatisfaction with it. At first, we find her at Naxos, a black southern boarding school, which ‘converts’ the young pupils into lady and gentleman. Helga has deep resentment for this conversion technique and soon finds herself out of that environment along with her engagement to her colleague in Naxos.
We slowly become aquatinted with Helga’s past, how her parents meet, why their relationship didn’t work and why she felt lonely all the time. Soon she reaches Chicago, and because money troubles have already started, started her frantic search for employment. Finally she comes across Mrs Hayes Rore, who employs her for arranging her speeches which she regularly gives at Negro women’s league of clubs.Though grateful, Helga scorns Mrs Rore as a person without substance and whose personality is a total sum of recycled ideas.
But Mrs rose introduces Helga to her niece Anne grey and that’s how Helga makes her move to New York. There in Harlem, for sometime Helga seems to find herself. But her restless nature again betrays her.Everything starts irritating her. Soon she find a new distraction in Denmark, which was home to her white mother. She visits her aunt there, and for 2 years have quite a good time.She gets everything she desired for, money, appreciation, happiness, but she soon starts to become bored again.
Although she vowed never to return to America, she does it anyways. After sometime she comes across Reverend Greene and ends up marrying him in impulse and moves to Alabama as a wife to the local preacher. For sometime, she busies herself with religion and thinks that she finally found peace, predictably she grows discontent again.
Story ends on a very pessimistic note. Helga who had nothing but scorn for black community, ended up at a station she despised most. She made her life a quicksand where every move of hers will bury her more in it until there is no hope left. Helga thinks this happens because she was black, but I think being black has nothing to do with it. Some people are hopeless by nature. They will find negatives in every situation and will be miserable all their life. Helga life was much better since beginning, she had education, relatives, friend, upper circle, money and still she wasn’t happy. She was incapable of feeling happiness and for that she blamed everyone from society to God and finally her impulsive nature only doomed her.
My Rating — 3
On the scale of: (1- Hate , 2- Neither like nor dislike, 3- Like, 4- Love, 5- Gaga)
Why anyone else should read this Book?
It’s a short story. 100+ pages, so quick to add a book in your read list.
It captures the unquenchable thirst of desires and hopelessness of it very beautifully. It’s a cautionary tale to anyone not to be reliant on ever increasing desires for achieving happiness because you will never get it that way.
I admire the fact that it was the first published work of Nella Larsen. For anyone aspiring to be a writer, this is really a good example of amazing writing.
So, read Quicksand, find yourself sinking in it with Helga, and appreciate the life you have.
Wear the mask, Stay home, Stay Safe!!!
Have you read it? Are you planning to? What is your opinion? Share them here. Till next time, Happy Reading Folks!!!