Helga Crane in Nightclub

harlem night club
Harlem night club, circa 1920's

One of the more significant episodes of anonymity in Quicksand is the scene when Helga goes to the dance club in Harlem. Although we are looking at this story through Helga’s point of view, the night club passage on page 59 begins with the words “They danced”. Immediately, we are pulled out of our individualist understanding of Helga Crane. Even though Helga sees herself as something different and extremely distinguishable from others, in this moment she is able to identify with everyone around her. Further into the passage, Helga claims to be “oblivious of the oblivion of other gyrating pairs, oblivious of the color, the noise, the grand distorted childishness of it all” (59). This obliviousness is even more important for it brings Helga to a level above the judgment and concerns of others. In being oblivious, Helga does not literally become anonymous but is able to feel a sense of anonymity. She suddenly doesn’t see the details of the world around her, nor does she care, thereby the world’s perceptions of her also don’t matter. As well, Helga talks about the “oblivion of other gyrating pairs,” showing that she is not the only person going through this experience. The dancers around her are also oblivious to her. In this moment, she is an unacknowledged figure, unimportant to everyone around her, and as a result is able to be herself freely.

Jazz Club

Helga’s feeling of anonymity, or being unnoticed by others, leads Helga to a further connection with her true self. In this moment, she is able to come to terms with the truth of her heritage and embrace that which defines her identity. We see this when Helga says that “not only had she been to the jungle, but she had enjoyed it” (59). The word “jungle” has many different associations attached to it, often alluding to a wild or primitive nature. In going to “the jungle”, it is as if Helga was able to reconnect with her deep roots and come to a better understanding of her true self. It is also interesting that Helga says she “enjoyed it,” for her deep roots are something she tries so hard to run away from. But perhaps this enjoyment stems from her new feelings of anonymity. This club is not necessarily a place for Helga to call home, but in this moment she does not have to worry about other people’s perceptions of her. It is the value of that anonymity grants her, the freedom to just be without the constant pressure of judging eyes.