In Quicksand, how is the theme of double-consciousness addressed?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Double- consciousness is addressed through Helga's characterization. Helga lives at the hyphen of "double- consciousness."  In being part White and part African- American, she articulates what it means to exist in both worlds.  She straddles both, but finds pure acceptance in neither.  Part of this might be due to her own psychological condition.  Larson develops Helga as a character who experiences the pain of double- consciousness to such a point that she may have internalized the lack of full acceptance within her own being.  Helga is determined the find an ideal of perfection.  She sojourns throughout her various stops looking for a perfected ideal of race and racial identity.  Part of the reason why she is so unhappy is because no such standard exists.  

Due to her double- consciousness, she experiences this twice as hard in finding emptiness in the African- American and White comunities. The implication is that double- consciousness has to be understood by the individual in terms of accepting their identity as reflective of both domains. Helga finds misunderstanding and ignorance in both communities, and this might be Larsen's point.  Identity has to be embraced from the individual's point of view.  The individual must make peace with their own identity in being double- consciousness and not wait for validation to come from a community setting.  Like Helga, if individuals wait for external validation, there is a good chance unhappiness will follow.  It is in this element in which the novel's treatment of double- consciousness is highly reflective on the part of the individual, enahncing its effectiveness.


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