Date of Award

Spring 5-20-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Arts in Humanities (DAH)



First Advisor

Kelly B. DeLong, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Napolita Hooper-Simanga, D.A.H.

Third Advisor

Tikenya Foster-Singletary, Ph.D.


This study focuses on the novels of Quicksand by Nella Larsen and Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison to explore the phenomenon of poqéakh (פֹּקֵחַ) through the fictionalized lived experiences of their protagonists, Helga Crane and invisible man. Each novelist’s representation of poqéakh offers a portrait of the protagonists’ psyches. The narratives reveal an unsettling truth for the protagonists, who are members of a population often targeted, stigmatized, and fashioned or re-fashioned by Americans and various environs in American society, that they must assimilate—not only their bodies, but their psyches too to fit the “white man’s pattern” (Larsen 4). Their realities inform them that non-conformity and/or developing or utilizing their intellect is disadvantageous—perceiving is unfavorable. Each protagonist learns that she and he will not only be limited by their imaginations or abilities, but also by persons and constructs within American society keeping them witless and amenable.

The environs presented in forms such as schools, jobs, even people who prepare each protagonist to accept all and any disparity (inequality and inequity), they are made to be persistently and surreptitiously instructive. As such, these environs are always educating (or training), always molding the psyches of the protagonists to live within a frame—the construct (American society). These ever informing boundaries thoroughly acquaint each protagonist on “how to scale down [their] desires and dreams so that they will come within reach of possibility” (Thurman 115). Poqéakh leads Helga Crane to perceive the boundaries while it prevents the invisible man from returning to unblissful ignorance, thus, for him, providing momentary periods of lucidity.

This study utilizes a qualitative research design and method, and relies on phenomenological theory to successfully analyze the novels and explicate on the representations of poqéakh. As this study will illustrate, Larsen and Ellison offer as representative via their novels two narratives of the diasporic psyche (mind), wherein their protagonists’ experiences of poqéakh lead to some unmitigated facts and disturbing truths about their reality.