The Worst Of Both Worlds, And The Best Of Neither

2044 words - 8 pages

The Worst of Both Worlds, and the Best of Neither

Helga Crane's racial mixedness as a mulatto in Nella Larsen's novel Quicksand divides her socially, emotionally, and geographically, and suspends her in a perpetual "in between" status. Her uncanny role results from a combination of qualities that simultaneously identify her with, and distance her from, each side of her ancestry. Helga's identity becomes taboo because it leads her "diverging in two contrary directions"(Freud 24) that cannot exist simultaneously.

Freud's article on "Taboo and Emotional Ambivalence" follows these two separate directions that divide the meaning of 'taboo' to find that at the end they merge to repel him in their "sense of something unapproachable"(24). He defines taboo as, "on the one hand, 'sacred', 'consecrated', and on the other 'uncanny', 'dangerous', 'forbidden', 'unclean'"(24). These two separate meanings of taboo lead back to one another after they each are split in half again. The notion of taboo as something sacred or forbidden suggests that it is either something known that is holy and should be worshipped, or something that is worshipped simply because it is sacred but the reason for its holiness is unknown. The competing idea of taboo as forbidden creates the possibility that it is either something known to be unclean and therefore tainted, or it is dangerous because the reason for its filth is unknown. Each of these four possibilities converge in the sense of 'holy dread', or 'unholy dread', as the case may be, because they all evoke the same uncanny feeling.

Taboo restrictions and prohibitions not only further shroud its meaning in uncertainty, but spread its contaminating influence upon any person or object that is subjected to these restrictions; "Anyone who has transgressed one of these prohibitions himself acquires the characteristic of being prohibited"(29). This contagion perpetuates the characteristic mysterious and unknown qualities of taboo because the people who are submitting to them have no idea way, but readily adhere to them, "as though they were a matter of course"(28). The conflicting connotations of taboo are spread through these prohibitions to the people who violate them and then they continue beyond them to people who have not violated a taboo, but are still considered to be taboo themselves.

Helga feels the effects of her taboo social status early on when she is alienated because of the absence of her family. This absence becomes critical to Helga's acceptance by James Vayle's family when they are discussing their possible marriage plans.

They had never liked the engagement, had never liked Helga Crane. Her own lack of family disconcerted them. No family. That was the crux of the whole matter. For Helga it accounted for everything, her failure here in Naxos, her former loneliness in Nashville. It even accounted for her engagement to James. (Larsen 8)

The Vayle family is disturbed by...

Find Another Essay On The Worst of Both Worlds, and the Best of Neither

The Best and Worst of My Boss

595 words - 2 pages Everyone by nature has good and bad qualities. A Boss is no exception to this, therefore, the best boss I've ever had is also in some ways the worst.I currently work alone with my boss and the owner of Heath Sign Company in Athens, Pennsylvania making vinyl and painted signs and graphics. One thing that makes a good boss is respect. My boss has many of the same values and ambitions as myself which makes it very easy for me to respect and admire

Intelligent Design: The Best of Both Theories

1182 words - 5 pages the equation? Public high schools should allow a course in intelligent design to be included in the curriculum as a way of teaching both evolution and creationism without violating the separation of church and state. This is certainly easier said than done. Evolution, creationism, and intelligent design are defined by Merriam-Webster as follows: 1) “Evolution: a theory that the various types of animals and plants have their origin in other

The Worst Best Job

1868 words - 7 pages The Worst Best Job   Trimming Christmas trees is a hard job, but it is one of my favorites thus far. The biggest reasons that it is a hard job are the heat, the bees, and the poison ivy. Despite all the hard things that we have to go through it is a fun job. Most of the employees that work there are teenagers like myself. However, there were some men in there 40's that had worked there since they were my age. Even though they were not bosses

Best and Worst Parts of Being Gay

889 words - 4 pages kind of hope to the viewer. I suited up emotionally with a prayer and my deepest breath in years. "Dear God, help me to not completely fuck this up! Please speak through me!" The camera rolled. My immediate response to both questions, to my surprise, was the same answer- my rambling went something like this: The best and worst part of being gay is the culture. Gay culture has a bad image with every shallow gym-bunny-coke-snorting

Best and Worst Characteristics of My Teachers

1285 words - 5 pages The Five Best Characteristics of My Teachers: 1. Demonstrates Positive Attitude/Behavior: An example would be my first grade teacher. She always presented herself respectfully. She set a good example for all of her students and it influenced them to do the same. 2. Interesting Class/Material: My high school history teacher always kept things interesting. He never did the same thing every day and he rarely lectured us. One day he may have

The best and worst American Presidents

1081 words - 4 pages America has had its fare share of good and bad presidents throughout history.I chose Woodrow Wilson as the Best President of the American Government.He was Americas 28th President (Democratic) and served from 1913 - 1921, which was during World War 1. Woodrow Wilson was born in Staunton, Virginia on 28th December 1856. Before his Presidency Wilson was New Jersey's Governor for three years. At the University of Viginia Wilson studied law, after

The Plurality of Worlds

1635 words - 7 pages discuss the plurality of worlds today do not deal with the "imagination" as much as de Fontenelle did. Neither do these scientists and writers feel the need to include philosophy in their discussions about the possibility of the existence of life beyond our planet. Moreover, de Fontenelle uses "conversations" to explain his reasoning behind the belief that there exist "an infinity of worlds with inhabitants." If the author's work had been written in

War of the worlds

1127 words - 5 pages H.G. Wells' classic novel War of the Worlds is one of the most profound prophetic novels ever written, comparable to other works such as A Brave New World and 1984 in that they predict events leading to the decline of mankind in times of social unrest. In this case, Wells has written a book in the time of a decline in British imperialism, and the events that take place in the tale critique both the actions and beliefs of the British supremacy in

The Visible and Invisible Worlds of Salem

676 words - 3 pages The Visible and Invisible Worlds of Salem Salem Village was one of many non-urban inhabitants. They were looked upon as country folk because of their interests and beliefs in the church and growing tobacco to survive in this new land. There was not much for children to do except go to church, work on the fields, or go to school. You can imagine how bored these children can get. In such a secluded lifestyle as this, you would be a

I, the Worst of All

2772 words - 11 pages their way around and out from under patriarchal thought." (Lerner qtd in Merrim Modern Women xxiii) Lerner's words hold true for two women involved in the film I, the Worst of All. Both of them had to "reinvent the wheel" and show their male contemporaries that women can and will find their way out from under the control of patriarchy. Juana Ines de la Cruz and Maria Luisa Bemberg are separated by three centuries of continuous strife for

The Best Immigration Policy or the Worst?

2623 words - 10 pages The Best Immigration Policy or the Worst The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) is viewed as one of the most important policy implementations in U.S. immigration history. As drafted, IRCA proposed to be a policy to control and deter all illegal immigration into the U.S., but the policy was truly directed at stopping the flow of Mexican immigrants that continues to be the largest immigration flow in the world. Daniel Tichenor

Similar Essays

Incorporating The Best Of Both Worlds

1439 words - 6 pages reality. In “Hidden Intellectualism,” by Gerald Graff, author of They Say I Say and professor of English at the University of Illinois in Chicago, argues many different points on the two. With his many distinctive arguments throughout the reading I coincide with Graff when he shows us that, yes street smarts is favored, but fundamentally, incorporating street smarts and book smarts together will have the best outcome. Gerald Graff gives his own

When Rationalism And Empiricism Collide: The Best Of Both Worlds

1346 words - 5 pages the possibilities for what the future may hold are consequently narrowed. For example, human offspring are born from the result of sexual intercourse. Because this result is consistent with nature in both the past and present, it is safe to assume that sexual intercourse will most likely result in an offspring. Nature will not, one day, decide that offspring must be delivered by a stork. Nature is not so unpredictable in the sense that it often

The Best And Worst Of Television

757 words - 3 pages Television? Is there a best or worst of television? Actually, there's both. Television has its ups and downs, or its bests and worsts. The best being sitcoms, or situation comedies, shows like, "Friends" and "The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air," and the worst being talk shows, such as "The Jerry Springer Show." These sitcoms depict everyday life. They produce family values and warm the hearts of the viewers. It also provides laughs and situations

The Best And Worst Of Times

1048 words - 4 pages “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...” and so they were in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama (Dickens 1). In Harper Lee’s classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird, set in the small town of Maycomb, it was indeed the best and worst of times for the character Scout as she recounted the tales of school years and summers that affected her as she grew up through the course of the novel. Just as any child growing up, the adults that