Tag Archives: Quicksand


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.”

Brainstorming for Project #2

In class on Monday, we discussed possible topics for research for Project #2. You will do some research to be able to write an annotation about something that a reader (like you!) would want to know more about to better understand Quicksand.

For homework, comment here by 1-identifying what you might research to add information to the readers’ understanding, and 2- identify the passage or section of the text that would benefit from an annotation.

Some of the ideas we discussed in class:

  • one of the schools mentioned in the novel, or the whole system of schools mentioned
  • miscegenation laws in the early 20th century
  • any historical figure mentioned in the text
  • any literary references
  • any fashion elements from the text (we discussed decolettage, thanks to Brittney).
  • geography discussed in the text as it related then to the story (you couldn’t just explain where Harlem or Copenhagen are, but you would have to figure out a way that either is relevant and provide more than just a geography detail but instead understand how they relate to, for example, the issues with race that the novel addresses)
  • connections to other stories by Larsen. This is the reason that I ordered this edition of the novel, so that you could read other stories and connect them to Quicksand.
  • connections to information you found in the introductory materials in our book–biographical mostly.

Some of these broader ideas aren’t directly linked to a particular passage. As you develop your project, you will find particular passages to focus on as the appropriate points to which you can attach your annotation.

This is also a good place to ask (and answer) questions about Project #2, so please do use the comments to get input and feedback, ask for clarification, etc.

Helga Crane leaving Naxos

What do we know about Helga Crane? About her surrounding environment and the people who populate it?

  • Dr. Anderson: the school’s new principal: she likes him; she doesn’t like him; he thinks she has good breeding and she reacts badly to this. He has grey eyes. (does this mean he is biracial as well?)

Are we sympathetic to Helga or angered by her? Can we relate to her?

  • her moods change so frequently
  • feels like an outsider, can’t connect
  • never satisfied–there’s excitement in her wanting something
  • lack of family support may be different than our experience

think about time: analepsis (flashback) and prolepsis (flash forward)

think about repetition: what gets repeated must be important somehow

Think about:

train scene (ch 4)

arriving in Chicago (ch 5)

looking for work (ch 6)

treats herself even though she’s low on cash, denies herself food

Mrs. Hayes-Rore (ch 7)

Introducing Helga Crane

What do we know about Helga Crane?

  • likes nice stuff
  • likes exotic things? foreign? imports?
  • reads books
  • alone–>lonely?
  • chooses gloom, low light
  • as a teacher: enjoys it, gives “willingly and unsparingly”–but it’s taxing
  • forced isolation: doesn’t open her door to other teachers
  • 22 years old
  • blue-black hair, “skin like yellow satin” : attractive
  • is she crafting her appearance in a detailed way?

What do we know about the world she lives in?

  • her room is filled with her nice things
  • lots of books
  • she has a large room amid other people’s rooms
  • “soft gloom”
  • in the South
  • she’s in a metaphorical desert: big shift from day to night
  • her coworkers are unkind and gossipy
  • she’s insignificant in the huge institution
  • she lives on campus where other teachers live



the quality of being magnanimous; a magnanimous act.

(This  word is a derivative of the word magnanimous which in turn means showing noble sensibility or high minded)

source: the free dictionary by Farlex

I stumble on to the word “magnanimity” while reading chapter one of the Quicksand. It was use in the context “the exemplification of the white man’s magnanimity” . I believe  the word was used to emphasize the idea of how highly the white man is portrayed in Naxos. (refer to chapter 1 of Quicksand by Nella Larsen).