Passing Nella Larsen Analysis

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Passing, a novel by Nella Larsen, addresses the issue of race by telling the story of two African American women - Clare Kendry and Irene Redfield - who represent different aspects of passing1. In the novel, passing refers to the process of crossing the color line, where a light skinned person who belongs to the black racial community enjoys white privilege2. However, people who pass struggle with double consciousness as they long to honor their race without necessarily being associated with it3. The novel is highly invested in ambiguity to show the fluidity and complexity of race, and how it paves the way for passing4. Passing illustrates the struggle African Americans face with their unchosen race and their attempt to control their identity…show more content…
This earns her Irene’s compassion, empathy and closure. Irene portrays her as an emotionless and catlike creature who has a difficult emotion to understand. Perhaps her father’s death has altered her psychology, hence making her more prone to danger. Clare searches for thrill by chasing after danger and freedom to make her life more exciting and fill the void created by her race and the death of her father. Her daringness gives her courage to pass, which she considers a way to tackle the obstacles her race exposes her to. She is confident in her ability to pass and fails to consider the moral consequence hence focusing only on the physicality of it. She states: “It’s such a frightfully easy thing to do. If one’s the type, all that’s needed is a little nerve” (Larsen, 25). With that being said, she understands that passing involves a risk, which she is willing to take due to her desire to dissociate herself from her race. Therefore, she keeps her racial identity a secret from her husband, fearing it would endanger their marriage and their daughter’s future5. In the beginning, Irene criticizes Clare’s lack of loyalty to her race thus claiming: “No, Clare Kendry cared nothing for the race. She only belonged to it” (Larsen, 52). Irene struggles to comprehend the lack of allegiance Clare has to her race. When John makes a joke about her race, “It was hard to believe that even Clare Kendry would permit this ridiculing of her race by an outsider, though he chanced to be her husband” (Larsen, 39). It is intriguing that Clare does not use her white privilege to defend her race and challenge her husband’s hatred of the race. Although Clare is portrayed as a very individualistic and self-loving woman who is indulged by her high class, her eagerness to be around Irene inspires her to reconnect with her black community to some
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