Tag Archives: Nella Larsen


Tonic, noun: one that invigorates, restores, refreshes, or stimulates; medicinal

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

We read this word in chapter 9 of Quicksand. Helga uses it in the context of needing something to cure her malaise with New York and how she begins to hate it.

“As the days multiplied, her need of something, something vaguely familiar, but which she could not put a name to and hold for definite examination, became almost intolerable. She went through moments of overwhelming anguish. She felt shut in, trapped. “Perhaps I’m tired, need a tonic or something,” she reflected. So she consulted a physician, who, after a long, solemn examination, said that there was nothing wrong, nothing at all. “A change of scene, perhaps for a week or so, or a few days away from work,” would put her straight most likely.”


Adroit, adjective: having or showing skill, cleverness, or resourcefulness in handling situations.

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

We saw the adverb form of this word (adroitly) about halfway through chapter 7 of Quicksand. It was used to describe how Ms. Hayes-Rore changed subjects during a conversation in a smooth way during their train ride from Chicago to New York.

“The girl wished to hide her turbulent feeling and to appear indifferent to Mrs. Hayes-Rore’s opinion of her story. The woman felt that the story, dealing as it did with race intermingling and possibly adultery, was beyond definite discussion. For among black people, as among white people, it is tacitly understood that these things are not mentioned—and therefore they do not exist. Sliding adroitly out from under the precarious subject to a safer, more decent one, Mrs. Hayes-Rore asked Helga what she was thinking of doing when she got back to Chicago.”


Facile, adjective: without depth; superficial.

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

We encountered at the end of the first paragraph of chapter 3 of Quicksand. The author uses the word to describe how the campus at Naxos was beautiful, but only in appearance.

“On one side of the long, white, hot sand road that split the
flat green, there was a little shade, for it was bordered with
trees. Helga Crane walked there so that the sun could not so
easily get at her. As she went slowly across the empty campus
she was conscious of a vague tenderness for the scene spread
out before her. It was so incredibly lovely, so appealing, and so
facile. The trees in their spring beauty sent through her restive
mind a sharp thrill of pleasure.”


Snatch, noun: a brief, fragmentary, or hurried part.

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

We encountered the plural form of this word in the second chapter of Quicksand. It is used to describe the activity that Helga hears outside her door while she hides in her room.

“In the corridor beyond her door was a medley of noises
incident to the rising and preparing for the day at the same
hour of many schoolgirls—foolish giggling, indistinguishable
snatches of merry conversation, distant gurgle of running water,
patter of slippered feet, low-pitched singing, good-natured
admonitions to hurry, slamming of doors, clatter of various
unnamable articles, and—suddenly—calamitous silence.”



: a place in the water where a ship stops and stays when anchored or at a wharf. 2 : a bed on a ship or train. 3 : an amount of distance kept for the sake of safety. We gave the haunted house a wide berth.

source: https://www.merriam-webster.com

This word is found in chapter 2 of  “Quicksand” It was used in reference to Helga hoping to get boarding on a train in midst of her hasty departure from Naxos.



a pleasantly sharp and appetizing flavor.

the quality of being pleasantly stimulating or exciting.

source: google dictionary

This word was taken from chapter 2 of “Quicksand” by Nella Larsen.  It was used in the context referring to Helga Crane’s joy of leaving Naxos as stated “she was now in love with the piquancy of leaving.”


Skirmish (noun) – a minor fight in war usually incidental to larger movements.

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

From “The Complete Fiction of Nella Larson” by Nella Larsen, “Quicksand” Chapter 13 Page 100

“She came away from the coffee feeling that she had acquitted herself well in the first skirmish.”

In this statement, the word skirmish is used to describe how Helga was able to please the crowd that came to see her. She was worried about disappointing her aunt and uncle, so after successfully meeting with the people she felt lightened.