One modernist theme in this work involves alienation -- the sense of being homeless and rootless. Alienation was a common theme in the works of modernist writers, and in fact many American modernists were somewhat literally rootless. Many spent a good deal of time in Europe, as does Helga. The work's contact with the Harlem Renaissance results in part from the fact that it is partly set in Harlem. Like the works of many writers of the Harlem Renaissance, this work explores the place of African Americans in American culture.