Category Archives: Glossary


Pabulum (noun) – intellectual sustenance

“”You must,” the Reverend Mr. Pleasant Green would say unctuously, “trust the Lord more fully, Helga.” This pabulum did not irritate her.” (277, online version)

Understanding this word tells us that the way how Reverend Mr. Pleasant Green was talking to Helga in a way to persuade her to trust more in God was acceptable in her mind. She was willing to allow his spiritual talk to move her to see what he was saying was the right way even though she looked and believed in not trusting God so much.


Unctuously (adjective) – full of unction; especially revealing or marked by a smug, ingratiating, and false earnestness or spirituality

“”You must,” the Reverend Mr. Pleasant Green would say unctuously, “trust the Lord more fully, Helga.” (277 online version)

Understanding this word tells me how he said what he said towards Helga. He said it trying to sound earnest and righteous in a way so it seems and sounds right despite her view on God in the past.


Finicky (adjective) – extremely or excessively particular, exacting, or meticulous in taste or standards

“In the certainty of his goodness, his righteousness, his holiness, Helga somehow overcame her first disgust at the odor of sweat and stale garments. She was even able to be unaware of it. Herself, Helga had come to look upon as a finicky, showy thing of unnecessary prejudices and fripperies.” (271-272 online version)

Understanding this meaning tells us that Helga was able to focus on exactly what she wanted to focus on which was the admiration of the man and was able to block out the disgusting smell of sweat and stale clothes.


Clamor (noun) – noisy shouting

“And in that moment she was lost-or saved. The yelling figures about her pressed forward, closing her in on all sides. Maddened, she grasped at the railing, and with no previous intention began to yell like one insane, drowning in every other clamor, while torrents of tears streamed down her face.” (254, online version)

This word kind of paints a picture of how she was yelling/crying by showing us that the yell would start off loud and then slowly began to get lower and lower. Once it’s low then tears will begin to fall down her face and then the yelling/shouting/crying will begin again at the loudest to gradually lower.



Aghast (adjective) – shocked and upset

“James was aghast. He forgot to be embarrassed. “But Helga! Good heavens! Don’t you see that if we-I mean people like us-don’t have children, the others will still have. That’s one thing that’s the matter with us. The race is sterile at the top” (231, online version)

The word ‘aghast’ tells us how James facial reaction was towards Helga’s response. It shows that he was not expecting Helga, who wants black people to be appreciated, so he thought she would have kids with another black man like him. But was not the case so it took him by surprise and thought that she didn’t understand the importance of it.


defiant(adjective)- showing defiance.


On page 82 of Quicksand by Nella Larsen it says , “She felt a sharp stinging sensation and a recurrence of that anger and defiant desire to hurt which had so seared her on that past morning in Naxos”

After learning what the word meant, i think its important because it helps the characteristics of Helga and it gives a better understanding of what Helga is feeling. You get a better understanding of her character.


ostracized(verb) – exclude (someone) from a society or group.

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IN chapter 11 of Quicksand by Nella Larsen it says, ” ‘It’s the principle of the thing that I object to. You can’t get around the fact hat her behavior is outrageous,treacherous, in fact. That’s what’s the matter with the Negro race. They won’t stick together. She certainly ought to be ostracized.”

After learning the definition of the word, I know now how Anne felt about colored people because  she saw Dr. Anderson danced with a colored woman and Anne felt so jealous and hatred toward the woman. The author shows how white people mistreated people of color and discriminated them.


vexed(adjective) – annoyed, frustrated, or worried.


On chapter 14 it says, ” Helga’s own feelings were mixed; she was amused, grateful and vexed. It had all been decided and rragned without her, and also, she was a little afraid of Olsen.”

After knowing what this word means,  i have a better understand about how Helga feels around Axel Olsen.


placidly(adjective) – pleasantly calm or peaceful; unruffled; tranquil; serenely quiet or undisturbed

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In chapter 12 of Quicksand by Nella Larsen it says, “She felt that it would be useless to tell them what she felt for the beautiful, calm, cool girl who had the assurance, the courage, so placidly to ignore racial barriers and give her attention to people was not contempt but envious admiration. So she remained silent, watching the girl.”

Now that I know what this word means I know how Helga reacted to Anne’s opinions. I think its important to show how Helga responses to comments like Anne’s. Its also important to show how racist people where about colored and mixed people.


abhorrence(noun)- a feeling of repulsion; disgusted loathing


On page 92 of Quicksand by Nella Larsen it says, ” And the white men dance with colored women. Now you know, Helga Crane, that can mean only one thing.’ Anne’s voice was trembling with cold hatred. As she ended, she made a little clicking noise with her tongue., indicating an abhorrence too great for words.”

After searching the definition of the word I think the word is important. Anne is a friend of Helga. She is disgusted and hates colored people. Now this makes Helga insecure about her being bi-racial. It helps the reader understand how white people felt about black people.