The Tragic Fate Of Helga In Quicksand

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The Tragic Fate Of Helga In Quicksand By Nella Larsen Essay, Research Paper The Tragic Fate of an Unrequited Childhood By Darcy Jo Gaugler In reading Quicksand written by Nella Larsen one may come to the end of the book with a reaction much like??what!?? Then, in frustration, throw the book down, lean an aggravated head back, and continue to ponder the books in its entirety. One may wonder how a promising life could end in such a sad way. Where did Helga Crane go wrong? What could she have done differently? Along with these questions, a reader may feel strongly enough to condemn Helga to her fate. Others may be sympathetic. Either way, close analysis will show that Helga Crane courageously through her actions and opinions tries to listen to her true self, but unfortunately, a

rocky childhood mixed with her complex personality combine to, in the end, make her a tragic heroine. In the very beginning Helga makes choices that are aligned with her true self. In Naxos, she is not happy. She feels like it is a place that is distasteful to her personality because of ?its air of self-rightness and intolerant dislike of difference? (262). So, she decides to leave. This is the mark of an individual who is confident enough to realize when a situation in her life is no longer suitable. Although her decision happens quickly, it is not without merit. So, she decides to go see the dean of the school to resign the following day. It is in his office where the reader begins to recognize the personality flaw that taints her life. She goes in with great intentions?to quit

a situation that is causing her pain and then find an environment less stifled and more suited to her own ideals. However, after explaining to Robert Anderson her reasons for leaving, Anderson then explains to her some very basic yet realistic facts of life. He says, ?Some day you?ll learn that lies, injustice, and hypocrisy are a part of every ordinary community. Most people achieve a sort of protective immunity, a kind of callousness, toward them. If they didn?t, they couldn?t endure? (273). After this speech, Helga becomes silent, and begins to realize that she does not want to leave. Her respect, and perhaps desire for Anderson, ?this man who was talking so earnestly of his work, his plans, his hopes? (273) has caused an immediate change in her attitude. Many readers would

feel this is fickle and indecisive. But what human has not committed these same actions? It is not here where she has made a mistake. Later on in the conversation, Anderson mentions her childhood. Here, Helga acts on immature instincts, and becomes selfishly engaged in her own self-pity, ?The shamed feeling which had been her penance evaporated. Only lacerated pride remained? (273-274). It is here where Helga Crane walks out and quits. Thus, she left Naxos not because of its less than liberated environment, but purely because she was ashamed of her childhood and prideful of herself. This incident is reminiscent of the fatal personality contradiction that marks her life. In Harlem, Helga acts on various instincts that truly show her depth, her integrity, and her sense of

adventure. Arriving there, she is set up with Anne who ?was interesting, an odd confusion of wit and intense earnestness; a vivid and remarkable person? (291). They had a nice friendship in Harlem with a social and economic situation suited to Helga?s tastes. The people in Harlem were easy-going and interesting. Helga was happy. Yet, as time wore on Helga became discontent. The more she knew of Harlem the less she desired to frequent it. She began to slowly see the hypocrisies of Harlem particulaly through Anne who ?would not have desired or even have been willing to live in any section outside the black belt, and she would have refused scornfully, had they been tendered, any invitation from white folk?but she aped their clothes, their manners, and their gracious ways of living?