Author Archives: Kevin Palomeque

Serenade

Serenade:noun: musical performance given to honor or express love for someone, often by one person

Source: https://www.thefreedictionary.com/serenading

From: “What You Pawn I Will Redeem” by Sherman Alexie

“Honey Boy danced a slow circle around us and sang along with Willie. 

“Are you serenading me?”  I asked him.”

Serenade is used by the author to jokingly describe how Honey Boy is dancing, in a possibly romantic manner, with the protagonist.

Homely

Homely: adjective: lacking in physical attractiveness; not beautiful; unattractive

Source: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/homely

From: “What You Pawn I Will Redeem” by Sherman Alexie

” “Hey, ” I said, “you’ve got to have a home to be that homely.” He just laughed and flipped me the eagle and walked away.”

Homely is used to describe how ugly the homeless person that the protagonist is talking to, in a joking manner.

Capricious

Capricious:adjective: subject to, led by, or indicative of a sudden, odd notion or unpredictable change; erratic

Source: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/capricious

From: “The Shawl” by Louise Erdrich, page 5

“He became, for us, a thing to be avoided, outsmarted and exploited. We survived off him as if he were a capricious and dangerous line of work.”

Capricious is used to describe how the father of the protagonist behaves. The father’s excessive drinking has made him something to be feared by his own children because of his unpredictable behavior.

Research Letter – Kevin Palomeque

300 Jay Street

New York City

11201

 

5-01-2018

 

Sir Lilliam Pumpernickel

HathiTrust Project Editor

HathiTrust
1001 North Buhr Building
200 Hill Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

 

Dear Sir. Pumpernickel,

First off, I would like to say how much I appreciate the work that you and your company are doing. Providing a convenient way for users to access knowledge is important for preserving history and culture. I am contacting you today because I believe that with the addition of annotations in the digital version of “Quicksand” by Nella Larsen, the reader would have a better understanding of the text. The specific text I have in mind is regarding the protagonist, Helga Crane, and her resentment towards Christianity because of how it affected slaves in America. By providing an annotation that elaborates on the historical relationship between Christianity and slavery, readers could have a better grasp on the passage.

 

The text in question is found in chapter 25, page 160. Helga Crane reveals her feelings on Christianity.

“And this, Helga decided, was what ailed the whole Negro race in America, this fatuous belief in the white man’s God, this childlike trust in full compensation for all woes and privations in “kingdom.” Sary Jones’s absolute conviction, “In de nex’ worl’ we’sall recompnse’,” came back to her. And ten million souls were as sure of it as was Sary. How the white man’s God must laugh at the great joke he had played on them! Bound them to slavery, then to poverty and insult, and made them bear it unresistingly, uncomplainingly almost, by sweet promises of mansions in the sky by and by.”

 

Here Helga Crane expresses her distaste for Christianity (or “the white man’s God”). To Helga, this distaste stems from the unquestioning belief that some black people have in a God that enslaved them and impoverished them, just so that they can be rewarded with an afterlife that is much better than the current life they live. This passage has a lot of historical backgrounds that I feel would benefit the reader if they learned of it. Some readers may find themselves asking: how could Christian slave owners go against their own teachings and still consider themselves religious? What effect did Christianity have on slaves and black people? Why did slaves believe in a white man’s God in the first place?

 

Slavery was justified by Christian slave masters with the biblical story called “The Curse of Ham”. This story featured Ham who laid his eyes upon the naked body of his father, Noah and encouraged his brothers to join him. Once Noah realized this, he placed a curse on Ham and his descendants, damning them to servitude for eternity. Ham was described as having dark skin and slaves masters saw an opportunity. As Tony Evans puts it in “Are Black People Cursed? The Curse of Ham”: “This myth became an authoritative myth because it was rooted in theology, and slave owners used this twisted theology to sustain a perverted sociology. This process is known as sacralization, the development of theological and religious beliefs to serve the interest of a particular ethnic or racial group.”

Slave masters capitalized on using religion as a way to justify their cruel acts. Many people view the word of God as infallible so very few would doubt the legitimacy of using biblical stories as justification for slavery.

 

The second question a reader may ask themselves is “What were the effects that Christianity had on the slave/black population?” For W.E.B. DuBois, one of the greatest American scholars, the answer was “complacency”. In his work, “The Souls of Black Folk”, DuBois states the following: “By the middle of the eighteenth century the black slave had sunk, with hushed murmurs, to his place at the bottom of a new economic system, and was unconsciously ripe for a new philosophy of life. Nothing suited his condition better than the doctrines of passive submission embodied in the newly learned Christianity.”

Here the reader can see how Christianity suppressed feelings of rebellion and made the Christian slaves complacent and happy with their “place at the bottom of a new economic system.” By stripping slaves of their fighting spirit, they were much easier to control and much less likely to overthrow their masters.

 

Finally, a reader may find themselves asking why slaves would continue believing in Christianity despite being treated so poorly (huge understatement).  Here, Richard Reddie gives us some answers in “Atlantic slave trade and abolition”: “The Africans who embraced Christianity identified closely with the Bible’s view of freedom, equality and justice and especially drew parallels between their own situation and the Hebrew people in the Book of Exodus…for the Africans it demonstrated that God was on the side of the oppressed and would send a Moses to free them.”

The Christian slaves were able to relate to the enslaved Hebrews in the Bible and believed that God would send a Moses of their own, to liberate them. This is why some slaves still believed in the words of the Christian god.

 

These are the sources I believe would enhance the reading experience for the reader. By adding annotations to the text, a reader could have a better grasp on why Helga Crane holds her beliefs on the toxic relationship between Christianity and slavery. I hope my examples have encouraged you to add the annotations in the digital version of the book.

 

Thank you,

 

Kevin Palomeque

 

Research Annotation – Kevin Palomeque

“And this, Helga decided, was what ailed the whole Negro race in America, this fatuous belief in the white man’s God, this childlike trust in full compensation for all woes and privations in “kingdom come.”Sary Jones’s absolute conviction, “In de nex’ worl’ we’sall recompnse’,” came back to her. And ten million souls were as sure of it as was Sary. How the white man’s God must laugh at the great joke he had played on them! Bound them to slavery, then to poverty and insult, and made them bear it unresistingly, uncomplainingly almost, by sweet promises of mansions in the sky by and by.”

The relationship between Christianity and slavery is a close one. Many Christian slave owners used biblical stories, such as “The Curse of Ham” to justify enslaving Africans (Evans). Despite Christianity being the religion of their cruel masters, many slaves embraced the religion with open arms which made them more subdued (DuBois 162). Although many slaves became subdued, some became hopeful. Being able to relate to the plight of the Hebrews in the Bible, many had hopes that one day, they too would have a Moses (Reddie).

 

Work Cited

“Of the Faith of the Fathers.” The Souls of Black Folk, by W.E.B. DuBois, Penguin Books, 1996, p. 162.

Evans, Tony. “Are Black People Cursed? The Curse of Ham – Resources.”Eternal Perspective Ministries, Eternal Perspective Ministries, 18 Jan. 2010, www.epm.org/resources/2010/Jan/18/are-black-people-cursed-curse-ham/.

Reddie, Richard. “Religions – Christianity: Atlantic Slave Trade and Abolition.”BBC, BBC, 29 Jan. 2007, www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/history/slavery_1.shtml.

Fatuous

Fatuous: adjective: complacently or inanely foolish

Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fatuous

From: “And this, Helga decided, was what ailed the whole Negro race in America, this fatuous belief in the white man’s God, this childlike trust in full compensation for all woes and privations in “kingdom come.”Sary Jones’s absolute conviction, “In de nex’ worl’ we’sall recompnse’,” came back to her.”

The word fatuous is used to describe how blindly the black people that Helga associates with, follow Christianity.  

Privation

Privation: noun: the state of being deprived; especially: lack of what is needed for existence

Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/privation

From: “Quicksand” by Nella Larsen, Chapter 25 – Page 160

“And this, Helga decided, was what ailed the whole Negro race in America, this fatuous belief in the white man’s God, this childlike trust in full compensation for all woes and privations in “kingdom come.”Sary Jones’s absolute conviction, “In de nex’ worl’ we’sall recompnse’,” came back to her.”

The word privation is used to show how much things black people in America have been denied due to their skin color. Helga is upset because black people are willing to put up with being deprived of basic civil rights because of the afterlife that awaits them.

Exhortation

Exhortation: noun: language intended to incite and encourage

Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exhortation

From: “Quicksand” by Nella Larsen – Chapter 20, Page 141

“Helga Crane was amused, angry, disdainful, as she sat there, listening to the preacher praying for her soul. But though she was contemptuous, she was being too well entertained to leave. And it was, at least, warm and dry. So she stayed. listening to the fervent exhortation to God to save her and to the zealous shoutings and groanings of the congregation.”

Exhortation is used to describe the passionate words of the congregation when they were speaking to God to save Helga.

Platitudinous

Platitudinous: noun: (of a remark or statement) used too often to be interesting or thoughtful; hackneyed.

Source: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/platitudinous

From: “Quicksand” by Nella Larsen, Chapter 23 – Page 151

“Her husband was still, as he had always been, deferentially kind and incredulously proud of her-and verbally encouraging. Helga tried not to see that he had rather lost any personal interest in her, except for the short spaces between the times when she was preparing for or recovering from childbirth. She shut her eyes to the fact that his encouragement had become a little platitudinous, limited mostly to “The Lord will look out for you,”…”

The word platitudinous is used to describe Helga Crane’s feeling towards her husband’s words. Her husband has repeated his words so much that she is growing somewhat tired of them.

 

Calamitous

alamitous: noun: being, causing, or accompanied by calamity

Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/calamitous

From: “Quicksand” by Nella Larsen, Chapter 24 – Page 157

“Helga nodded and tried unsuccessfully to make a little smile. She was glad of Miss Hartley’s presence. It would, she felt, protect her from so much. She mustn’t, she thought to herself, get well too fast. Since it seemed she was going to get well. In bed she could think, could have a certain amount of quiet. Of aloneness. In that period of racking pain and calamitous fright Helga had learned what passion and credulity could do to one.”

From this passage, we can see that a period of chaos has allowed Helga to learn more life lessons.