With her 1928 novel Quicksand, Nella Larsen became an important literary voice of the Harlem Renaissance. The novel follows Helga Crane, daughter of a Danish immigrant mother and black West Indian father, in her struggle to identify as a mixed race female. Larsen’s autobiographical main character illustrates both the general outline of the “race problem” in the early twentieth century and the specific social ideologies that frustrate and entrap a modern “tragic mulatto” in her quest for acceptance and selfhood.

The novel begins at Naxos, a Southern institute for black education where twenty-two-year-old Helga is in her second year as a teacher of “happy, singing children, whose charm …
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Citation:
Chura, Patrick , Casey Shevlin. "Quicksand". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 18 August 2012
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=2494, accessed 23 July 2014.]