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The Chicago section of Quicksand embeds as well an oblique but suggestive commentary on the contemporary politics of 1920s literary culture.
In the New York section of Quicksand that follows this scene, however, Larsen explores the tragic mulatto material not of "Negrophobia" propaganda but of a more self-consciously lite rary scene--material that was heavily informed by the convention but less explicitly racist, and perhaps, in Larsen's eyes, ultimately more insidious.
Melanctha" opens, as Quicksand ends, just after a scene of birth: The mulatta heroine has patiently assisted while "the sullen, childish, cowardly, black Rosie grumbled and fussed and howled and made herself to be an abomination and like a simple beast" (85).
19) But if "Melanctha" caught and held Larsen's interest, a book published even closer to her composition of Quicksand prompted an explicit desire to respond, along with the Harlem Renaissance writers Walter White and Jessie Fauset, in her own writing: T.
Birthright's tragic mulatto protagonist, Peter Siner, begins his journey through the novel on a Jim Crow car, returning from college in the North to his hometown in Tennessee to teach school, just as Larsen's heroine, inverting this journey near the beginning of Quicksand, leaves her teaching position in the South and rides a Jim Crow into the North.
Evoking crucial scenes from each, establishing points of confluence, alluding to specific themes, Larsen inscribes the New York interludes in Quicksand in the fashion of Mrs.
In Quicksand, Larsen revisits this conflicted scenario o f birthright recognition during an interlude of wild cabaret dancing in which Helga's shocked reaction at her own participation recalls the rhetoric of Stribling's primitivist descriptions.
Van Vechten's 1926 novel Nigger Heaven, in which a librarian character named Mary Love is modeled partially on Larsen herself, (23) shares with Quicksand an interest in literary history and the distinction of being a book about books.