Nella Larsen's Passing Analysis

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In Nella Larsen's Passing, two characters are illustrated to living unhappy lives. Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry have troubles and difficulties in their marriages. Neither of them have it worse than the other because the two of them are equally miserable. And both of them are easy to sympathize with even if they have different reasons for being so unhappy. Irene and Clare's relationships reflect on what Larsen's thoughts and beliefs are on marriages. Irene's marriage with Brian Redfield is empty and unfulfilling. Brian resents Irene because she was the reason why he could not be where he wanted to be, which has led to discomfort and arguments throughout their marriage. Brian very much wanted to be in Brazil, but Irene insisted upon him…show more content…
According to a bibliography of Larsen, Thadious M. Davis writes, "Larsen was the daughter of a Danish mother and, apparently, a West Indian father; she frequently alluded to her "mulatto" status" (1). A mulatto is a person who is mixed with a white and black ancestry. This explains the Passing demonstrating Clare as a woman who wants to and is able to pass as a white woman. It is possible that Larsen was either able to pass as a white woman, and wrote from experience or wanted to pass as a white woman, but could not, and wrote about it what it would be like if she could. It is also known that Larsen's father passed away when she was two, and her mother remarried. Davis states, "[Larsen] provided no other information about either her natural father or her mother and stepfather. Implicit in her reticence about her background is some discomfort in being the only black member of her immediate family" (1). There must have been issues with the marriage between the marriage between Larsen's mother and Larsen's stepfather. There must have been experiences that led Larsen to write about the life that Irene and Clare were living. The characters are tired and miserable. Irene is true to herself, but is still unhappy in her relationship, and Clare is untrue to herself which brought negativity to her marriage. Larsen was a mixed woman and she must have seen things through her mother's marriage which were not positive due to race. Larsen has felt alienated and lonely due to her being the only black member in her family and that must have also had an impact on her writing Clare's character. Larsen's idea of marriage was shaped from watching her mother and stepfather come together. Irene relationship with Brian represents the lack of communication, and being resentful.
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