How Quicksand Is Related To Harlem Renaissance - Novel - English

1340 words - 6 pages

STUDENT NO: 201708221.
This presentation will focus on how does the novel Quicksand by Nella Larsen relates to
the Harlem Renaissance or how does the author relates the novel to it. he Harlem
Renaissance was a movement geared towards defining and recreating an identity for
black Americans through art. The architects of the Renaissance resented both the labels
placed on them by white America and those accepted by many black Americans, and
sought to have African-Americans determine for themselves who they were and where
they stood in American society. Nella Larsen, in her 1928 novel Quicksand, struggles with
the issues that faced Renaissance artists and theorists in their quest for what Alain Locke
called "the New Negro" through the character of Helga Crane, a young mulatto woman
attempting to find her own niche in society.The Harlem Renaissance came into being at
a time when it seemed absolutely crucial for African Americans to have a powerful,
collective voice.
The novel, like the movement, begins in an atmosphere of Washingtonian philosophies.
Naxos, the school at which Larsen's Helga teaches, is entrenched in ideas of white
superiority and attempts by blacks to show whites that they deserve civil rights. "This
great community, Helga thought, was no longer a school. It was now a show place in the
black belt, exemplification of the white man's magnanimity, refutation of the black man's
inefficiency". The students of Naxos are constantly reminded by authority figures from
within and without that they are naturally inferior social beings that have to be uplifted
from their lowly status by quietly and inoffensively learning to emulate whites.
Like the political leaders of the Harlem Renaissance who were against Washington's
methods of racial uplift, Helga violently opposes the accomodationist atmosphere at
Naxos, the "trivial hypocrisies and careless cruelties which were, unintentionally perhaps,
a part of the Naxos policy of uplift", considering it oppressive and destructive to the
students' development. She finds her minor attempts to break out of the Naxos mold
viewed with "the hawk eyes of dean and matrons”, filled with the suspicion and mistrust.
The staff is ruthlessly disapproving of her slightly different wardrobe and her endeavors
to befriend and interest the students. Helga's only recourse is to abandon the world of
Naxos and try to create an identity in another space. She follows the trail of the
Renaissance artists from the South and its accomodationist schools north to Harlem.
In Harlem, Larsen's heroine tries to establish her position in society among the very race-
conscious black bourgeoisie. The people she meets there and the social events she
attends are much like the ones described in accounts of life among the black intelligentsia
of Harlem, much debate over race, politics, ...

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