Tag Archives: Nella Larsen


Lure, verb: to draw with a hint of pleasure or gain.

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

We came across this word in the beginning of chapter 18 of Quicksand. It’s used to describe Helga’s new found ability to attract attention using her beauty. The context of the sentence describes it as a “deliberate lure,” which could be read as a flirty demeanor.

“And Helga, since her return, was more than ever popular at parties. Her courageous clothes attracted attention, and her deliberate lure—as Olsen had called it—held it. Her life in Copenhagen had taught her to expect and accept admiration as her due.”


Project 2 Glossary Annotation

  • Laceration  (noun) – a torn and ragged wound

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

From: “Quicksand” by Nella Larsen, Chapter 15 Page 118

“Helga let that pass because she couldn’t, she felt, explain. It would be too difficult, too mortifying. She had no words which could adequately, and without laceration to her pride, convey to him the pitfalls into which very easily they might step. “I might,” she said, “have considered it once—when I first came. But you, hoping for a more informal arrangement, waited too long. You missed the moment. I had time to think. Now I couldn’t. Nothing is worth the risk. We might come to hate each other. I’ve been through it, or something like it. I know. I couldn’t do it. And I’m glad.”

Here, the word laceration is used to show that Helga does not want to hurt her pride to argue with Axel Olsen about marriage. Axel Olsen proposed Helga for marriage, but Helga refused it by using the excuse of racial difference. In her argument, Helga doesn’t want to marry a white man because she has suffered from the interracial marriage of her parents.


Project 2 Glossary Annotation:

  • Aped (verb) – to copy closely but often clumsily and ineptly

Source – https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ape

From: “Quicksand” by Nella Larsen, Chapter 9 Page 80

“She hated white people with a deep and burning hatred, with the kind of hatred which, finding itself held insufficiently numerous groups, was capable someday, on some great provocation, of bursting into dangerously malignant flames. But she aped their clothes, their manners, and their gracious ways of living. While proclaiming loudly the undiluted good of all things Negro, she yet disliked the songs, the dances, and the softly blurred speech of the race. Toward these things, she showed only a disdainful contempt, tinged sometimes with a faint amusement. Like the despised people of the white race, she preferred Pavlova to Florence Mills, John McCormack to Taylor Gordon, Walter Hampden to Paul Robeson.”

In this passage, the author depicts Helga as someone who would adapt to a better lifestyle to be accepted by the society, but keep her traditional values. Even though Helga hates white people, she follows their fashion and lifestyle. Helga also prefers the music that the white people like. This shows that Helga is conflicted between the African-American culture and the lifestyle of white people.


Pretentious (adjective) – making demands on one’s skill, ability, or means

Source – https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pretentious

From “The Complete Fiction of Nella Larson” by Nella Larsen, “Quicksand” Chapter 17 Page 125

“The easement which it’s heedless abandon brought to her was a real, a very definite thing. She liked the sharp contrast to her pretentious stately life in Copenhagen.”

Here, the word pretentious is used to describe how Helga has established a life full of comfort and extravagant living in Copenhagen.


Tumult (noun) – disorderly agitation or milling about of a crowd usually with uproar and confusion of voices.

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

From “The Complete Fiction of Nella Larson” by Nella Larsen, “Quicksand” Chapter 20 Page 142

“About her the tumult and the shouting continued, but in a lesser degree.”

The word tumult is used to describe how the disturbing loud commotion gradually became lower.



refuse to accept or be associated with. Reject.

source: dictionary.com

word is found in chapter 14 “Quicksand”

”In America Negroes sometimes talked loudly of this, but in their hearts they repudiated it.”

here Helga Crane is justifying her new life was now pleasing to her as it satisfied her “self-importance”, but to her the Negroes embrace the idea of being themselves on the surface not within their hearts as she believed they wanted to be more like the “whites” rather than black.



having little or no money

source: dictionary.com

found in chapter 13 “Quicksand”

”with that sensation of lavish contentment and well-being enjoyed only by impecunious sybarites waking in the houses of the rich”

This was perhaps describing Helga her self as the one who is not quite affluent  but still Indulges in luxuries of the rich.