Quicksand shows Helga’s as a figure of a Mulatto with a constant conflict between ideas of black and white identity.

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Nella Larsen deals with the crisis of racial identity Helga has throughout Quicksand. She comments on the life of a mulatto woman at a strict black southern school who wants to find herself. Larsen deals Helga as the ‘tragic mulatto’ from the beginning of the novel setting clearly the views of black racial characteristics. The tragic mulatto being a stereotypical idea of someone doomed to limbo between being black and white. Helga exhibits, an inability to conform anywhere long enough to discover whether she is black or white. The main issue of the novel is society’s guidelines viewing things as black or white with no healthy medium. Helga’s sexuality comes into this as she is unable commit to relations feeling things are missing from her life. The struggle that is primarily at conflict is that of Helga’s relationship with James and Naxos. This makes her frustrated in that she is restricted from herself and has to battle with both James’ ideals of her and her own. Larsen uses Axel Olsen as a figure that represents the white ideals that are present in Helga’s battle. He characterises how her ‘white’ desires and personality should be. Part of the conflict of self is that of Helga’s relationship with Dr Anderson he is seemingly part of the battle of her black self. It is his opinions of her that keep her from truly doing what she wants, it is frustration that keeps Helga. Another very important aspect of this book in screening the repression of Helga’s repressed sensuality is her eventual marriage of the Reverent. The final aspect is her dress and the way that she behaves, it is initially suppressed and comes slowly to be unleashed by her. These factors are all valid in showing the conflict of race in causing the repression and exhib... ... middle of paper ... ...g with the spiritual feeling of being black. This fact that she cannot find an equilibrium is due to those around her such as James, Dr Anderson, Anne, Axel Olsen and the Reverend. They all are on the black or white scale and she just fits in between. The book never concludes her struggle, so there is still the question of whether she will ever find her identity. The school of Naxos creates brainwashed ideas, even though it is clear she never agreed with them she still cannot escape the beliefs that they held. Therefore she is stuck in a kind of limbo. Dr Anderson is the only man she truly can relate but it is this want for more that stops her happiness with him. Happiness is the biggest issue for Helga and whilst she cannot find a helpful balance in closing she has the most important job of all bringing up children, she is the influential role in their lives.

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