Category Archives: Nella Larsen


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.


: unreasonable or foolhardy contempt of danger or opposition : rashness, recklessness(Merriam-Webster)

I came across this word when reading quicksand by Nella Larson in Chapter 1: “Ideas it rejected, and looked with open hostility on one and all who had the temerity to offer a suggestion or ever so mildly express a disapproval.”


: the quality of being magnanimous : loftiness of spirit enabling one to bear trouble calmly, to disdain meanness and pettiness, and to display a noble generosity He had the magnanimity to forgive her for lying about him. (Merriam-Webster)

I came across this word in chapter one of Quicksand: “It was now a showplace in the black belt, exemplification of the white mans magnanimity, refutation of the black mans inefficiency.”


any of a genus (Tropaeolum of the family Tropaeolaceae, the nasturtium family) of herbs of Central and South America with showy spurred flowers and pungent edible seeds and leaves; especially : either of two widely cultivated ornamentals (T. majus and T. minus) (Merriam-Webster)

I came across this word in chapter one of quicksand: “on the shining brass bowl crowded with many-colored nasturtiums beside her”


Riotous (adjective) – of the nature of a riot

“That night riotous and colorful dreams invaded Helga Crane’s prim hotel bed. She woke up in the morning weary and a bit shocked at the uncontrolled fancies which had visited her.” (pg 133)

Understanding what ‘riotous’ means describes the dream that Helga Crane had which was a dream that was vivid and out of her controlled which is what led her to wake up shocked because they seemed real and it was something that she should’ve controlled but couldn’t.