Nella Larsen’s novel Quicksand
Nella Larsen’s novel Quicksand:
The time-element is one of the most important aspects of literature in general and a book in particular - Nella Larsen’s novel Quicksand introduction. If the subject matter of the book relates to a controversial topic, time element is all the more important. Nella Larsen’s book Quicksand was published in the year 1928. Conflicts related to sex, in which the fair-sex is mostly at the receiving end, are part of the human history since time immemorial. As for Quicksand, it is the product of the nineteenth century-when slavery and race-related atrocities were rampart in USA. Exploitation on two serious counts-sexism and racism make this book a story of double tragedy. For, to a woman, even in the so-called civilized and advanced societies, life is an obstacle race. Each obstacle is harder than the ensuing one. This in nutshell is the subject matter of Quicksand. Advanced and educated section of the society may deny such discrimination against women, by quoting several recent legislations to defend and secure their rights and honor. But, even in this denial, there lies the reflection of implied acceptance of grave injustice.
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These legal umbrellas and raincoats can not give women total protection from the torrential rain of injustice that they face in every walk of life. So, what is her psychological tool of defense? The art of life for a woman is to convert defeats into victories through benevolent weapon of love and courage. There seems to be no other authentic solution. Nella Larsen (1891-1964) wrote about the trials and tribulation of black women in her own style. The impact of poverty is the root cause of all miseries for women. Poverty is mostly associated with illiteracy. As for managing her own life, Larsen sadly missed to make use of the indomitable human (woman) tools of love and courage to convert defeats into victories. She abruptly gave up. She threw up the towel, when it was not necessary to do so.
Quicksand is Nella Larson’s first novel. The first novel of any author reveals something important and relevant about the author’s own personality and happenings in life. The story of Helga Crane, (the prime character in the novel) is based on Larsen herself. Her mother is Danish, father black. She strives to find and establish her identity, but finds herself tangled in the web of sociological complications. Her spirit is subdued in the face of grave maladjustments. Everywhere she encounters unpalatable imperfections, and turns cynical. She is unable to find happiness and fulfillment. Her many marriages end in untold suffering and tragedies. She fails to assimilate herself in the mainstream of the social values of her era. She is tagged with rejection slips everywhere!
Misfortune arrives like an avalanche in Helga Crane’s life, crushing all her hopes. What is narrated about Helga Crane is the true reflection of the life of Nella Larsen, who spends the last thirty four years of her life in silence and seclusion. Humiliation is the last thing a creative writer can bear with. Larsen suffered on that count also, as a female writer in the male dominated Harlem Renaissance.
Larsen, Nella, Novel: Quicksand and Passing.
Publisher: Rutgers University Press (April 1986)