Nella Larsen: Passing, Quicksand, and The Stories

Colonialism: An Identity Eraser in 'Quicksand' and in the Poetry of Cullen and Bennett College

Works of the Harlem Renaissance frequently explored themes relating to identity, culture, and heritage. Artists attempted to reconcile their identities with the limited amount of knowledge they had about their cultural identities as Africana people. As exemplified in Quicksand by Nella Larsen, “Heritage” by Countee Cullen, and “Heritage” by Gwendolyn Bennett, Western cultural domination due to white supremacy, the slave trade, and colonialism prevents Africana people from understanding their identities and their culture.

Helga Crane’s late conversion to Christianity in Quicksand by Nella Larsen reflects how Western cultural domination erases her racial and cultural identity. Historically, Christianity was forced upon enslaved Africana people in Western colonized areas. Many were forced to convert, leaving behind their traditions and culture. At the end of Quicksand, after living in multiple places and existing with various types of people, Helga feels unhappy and discouraged, until stumbling into a church and having a religious experience. She then

gave herself up to [faith.…] Faith was really quite easy. One had only to yield. To ask no questions. The more weary, the more weak, she became, the easier it was. Her religion was...

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