Summary: Chapter Twelve
Helga travels to Denmark by ocean liner. On the nine-day voyage, the ship’s account officer recognizes Helga from when she visited Denmark as a child. He insists that she dine at his table, which makes her feel important. Everyone else treats her well, and she remembers some Danish that she learned as a child. She thinks about Dr. Anderson and wonders, conflicted, if she is actually in love with him. Aunt Katrina has been married since Helga last saw her, and Helga becomes worried that the new husband might treat her as poorly as Uncle Peter’s new wife did. However, Katrina’s husband, Herr Dahl, turns out to be very nice. They meet another couple, the Fishers, who have spent time in England and can help Helga with her Danish.
Summary: Chapter Thirteen
Helga enjoys her new life of luxury, admiration and attention in Denmark. Helga’s aunt comes to her room to inspect her available wardrobe for an afternoon tea and an evening party. She tells Helga that her clothes are not bright enough, since Helga is young, a foreigner, and different. Helga’s clothes are altered, and she also receives new clothes, and even new jewelry. While she travels around town, she is embarrassed by how people look at her and whisper. She feels like “some new and strange species of pet dog being proudly exhibited.” She enjoys the evening party and meets Herr Axel Olsen, who is an artist. Another guest at the party tells Helga that Herr Olsen is going to paint Helga’s portrait, and Olsen came to the party just to meet Helga. Helga goes to bed wondering exactly what her aunt meant by “different.”
Summary: Chapter Fourteen
Herr Olsen accompanies Helga and Aunt Katrina shopping. At the instruction of Herr Olsen, they buy expensive things for Helga to wear. Helga enjoys Denmark. Her remote personality makes her seem mysterious to others. The attention that Helga gets when she walks around town fuels her feelings of self-importance. When Helga thinks of America, it is with dislike. She has no desire to return and is happy that she did not have children there.
Helga likes Herr Olsen, but she is not sure if he feels the same. She wonders if race is a problem. Aunt Katrina tells Helga that she should think about marrying soon, since she is twenty-five, and provides the names of several successful men who would marry her. Helga replies that she doesn’t believe in interracial marriages, as it is too difficult for the children. Aunt Katrina says that Denmark is different and asks if Helga is interested in Herr Olsen. When Helga states that she isn’t sure that Herr Olsen is interested her, Aunt Katrina reassures Helga that he is. Helga and Aunt Katrina meet Fru Fischer for lunch. Fru Fischer also mentions Herr Olsen’s interest in Helga. This makes Helga dislike her.
Analysis: Chapters Twelve–Fourteen
As Helga settles into her new life in Copenhagen, the references to color emphasize the objectification and curiosity surrounding her race. Both Helga’s skin color and the colors of her clothing mark her as different from the pale Danes. Aunt Katrina urges her to wear revealing, brightly colored clothing and to rouge her face. When the artist Axel Olsen becomes interested in Helga, he pushes this deliberate flamboyance of dress even further. These instances of fetishization push Helga into a box that defines her by her racial identity. Helga’s own reactions to being exoticized are conflicting. She enjoys receiving attention and approval yet is uncomfortably aware of her race when people stare on the street. Despite her love of bright colors, she feels offended and defiant when she sees the loud colors of the things Axel Olsen picks out for her. Yet Helga consciously accepts the role as an exotic decoration and even cooperates in it, deliberately speaking Danish poorly to strengthen her image as that of an outsider.
Though Helga protests that she does not believe in interracial marriages, her actions and thoughts on the subject of marriage are inconsistent and shifting. Her relief that she did not marry a Black American and subject Black children to such a bigoted society acknowledges the racism of her home country. Yet her response when Aunt Katrina suggests marrying a Dane is to reject the idea on racial grounds. She partially agrees with Aunt Katrina’s claim that her mother could have solved her problems by returning to Denmark, but she does not see a life in Danish society as a viable choice for herself. She reacts with fear and reluctance to the suggestion she should marry Axel Olsen, whom she has taken some trouble to attract, in part because she fears subjecting potential children to the struggles and racism she faces as a mixed-race woman.