Character Analysis Of Nella Larsen's Passing By Irene Redfield

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Throughout Nella Larsen 's novel Passing the protagonist, Irene Redfield, finds herself drawn to the character, Clare Kendry despite repeatedly attempting to create distance between herself and Clare. Although she opposes the idea of passing on the surface, Irene finds herself occasionally passing for small luxuries not afforded dark skinned people. During one such excursion, Irene runs into Clare, a childhood friend who long ago decided to permanently pass, after the death of her father, by marrying a wealthy, exceedingly racist, white man, John Bellew. It is Clare’s connection to such an intensely racist man, along with the threat that he poses Clare should he learn of her racial background, that forces Irene to withdraw from her. Ultimately, Irene, time and time again, despite her desire for distance for both her sake and Clare’s, finds herself captivated by Clare out of unrecognized interest in her fascinating presence; understanding this connection allows the reader to better understand the dynamics between Irene and all the characters. Irene is no stranger to passing, but cannot fully commit to the lifestyle as Clare has, drawing Irene to her as source of knowledge. At tea with her and Gertrude, Irene confesses that Brian, “couldn’t exactly ‘pass’,” moments after explaining to the women present that one of her two sons has dark skin. Rather than having the freedom of choice as to what race to associate with as with the other women, Irene, as a result of her husband
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