1920’s society offered a prominent way for blacks that look white to exploit its barrier and pass in society. Visible within Nella Larsen’s Passing, access to the regular world exists only for those who fit the criteria of white skin and white husband. Through internal conflict and characterization, the novella reveals deception slowly devours the deceitful.
On March 1 2017, I attended an event for the anthology A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota. This event included readings, musical performances, and a choreographed performance. The entire event completely captivated me, but I was most impacted by Andrea Jenkins reading from her part of the anthology titled “The Price We Pay: How Race and Gender Identity Converge”.
The author establishes her ethical appeal, by providing the reader with a vivid image of how her childhood was growing up colored. She let the readers see through her eyes by providing common grounds, with people of color. Growing up in an exclusively colored town, and only seen whites occasionally, gives the author no reason to see herself as colored,
Nella Larsen brings in the discussion of race and how different individuals who identify as “black” or “white” view themselves. It talks about both the absence and presence of self through the use of the characters, Irene and Clare. In Passing, it shows how Irene identify herself as “black” but passes off as “white” in comparison to Clare who identifies herself as “white” and hence passes off as “white”. However, some critics argue that Irene portrays a sense of self through Irene’s sense of identity of being a “mother” and “black” through her community. Other critics put forth the notion that Clare portrays an absence of self through her final actions when she jumped off the window and disappears from the scene after her husband calls her a “nigger”. I will be taking a postmodern approach to the text and supplementing it with modernism and psychoanalytic theories before stating my final stance that postmodernism may be the most appropriate approach. This approach ensures that different perspectives are present in my analysis and ensures that it is not one-sided. The question that I hope to focus my argument on is “Does the postmodernist approach better emerge the idea of self from racism?”
Pauli Murray’s Proud Shoes tells the story of Murray’s family as they developed through segregation. After the death of her parents, Murray is taken to live with her grandparents, Robert and Cornelia Fitzgerald. Proud Shoes focuses on the life of Robert and Cornelia and how they experienced life differently due to their individual situations. This book discusses how race and gender played key roles in the life of Robert and Cornelia. Through this discussion, readers are able to understand a broader American life based on individual experiences and express topics on gender identity and gender difference.
The book I read this quarter was Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood. Its Lexile level is 680. This book is about a 11-year old girl named Gloriana Hemphill, who now comprehends how much racism is a problem in her hometown in Mississippi in 1963. In this book Glory is overwhelmed with how her town is handling people who are different than they are. She realizes that her favorite local pool is closing down so colored people can’t swim with the whites. Glory becomes an activist herself and writes a letter to the newspaper lining which makes her preacher father proud. Therefore, the theme of this book is to treat everyone equally, such as when Glory’s friend Frankie from Ohio drinks out of the “colored fountain”. Also, when Glory’s sisters boyfriend that he was arrested for sitting with a “colored friend” at the white table. Finally, when Glory’s African- American maid helped her the most when it comes to maturing.
The story takes place at the height of the Civil Rights Movement in America, when desegregation is finally achieved. Flannery O’Connor’s use of setting augments the mood and deepens the context of the story. However, O’Connor’s method is subtle, often relying on connotation and implication to drive her point across.
Susan S. Lanser’s “Feminist Criticism, ‘The Yellow Wallpaper,’ and the politics of color in America” examines the impacts “The Yellow Wallpaper” had on feminist writing styles and critiques. Lanser writes that the story helps to analyze the reading trough “the lens of a female consciousness” and apply the knowledge gained from a female perspective onto other literature (418). The transition that the narrator displays from being dependent on John to becoming independent reflects the feminist movement and challenges the “male dominance” that currently takes precedence in society (418). The “patriarchal prisonhouse” that is society controls the narrator and oppresses women not only in “The Yellow Wallpaper” but in real life as well (419). The
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.
Although miscegenation is not a new topic, the effects that this phenomenon has on people’s lives has been the source of inspiration for many literary works. “Miscegenation” by Natasha Trethewey is an autobiographical poem that expresses the difficulty that mixed-race people face in accepting their identity in a society that discriminates people who are different. That is, this poem expresses how racial discrimination can affect the identity of those people who do not identify as white or black. Besides, in this poem, Trethewey narrates her origin, as well as how her parents were victims of a society that did not accept their relationship. Therefore, the speaker starts by saying “In 1965 my parents broke two laws of Mississippi” (Trethewey 1); those two laws that broke the Trethewey’s parents were that they were married and had a daughter. According to Politidou, “before 1967 interracial marriages were illegal in sixteen states and children born of these unions were regarded as illegitimate” (13). One of these sixteen states was Mississippi, which the speaker indicates that there is something wrong in this place making use of a pun with the State’s name. The wrong thing was that African-descent people were treated as second-class citizens and that they did not have the same rights as white citizens in this place. Furthermore, for the population of this place an interracial marriage went against all the social precepts that were established. Consequently, the Trethewey’s
It is often said that a new definition of a woman arose in the 1920s. But is that true? While most women experienced many newfound freedoms in the 1920s, black women could not explore these freedoms as easily as white women. In the novel Passing by Nella Larsen, Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry grew up in Chicago together and are now both two wives and mothers in New York City during the 1920s, but there is a big difference between them. The novel’s title refers to light-skinned black women masquerading as white women for social benefits. Irene and Clare are both light enough to “pass”, but only Clare chooses to pass everyday. Irene passes in trivial situations like getting a cab, buying movie tickets, or getting a table at a restaurant, but
The story “Recitatif” is written by Toni Morrison. The definition of recitatif means among other things or to recite something. In this story, the narrator, Twyla, recites her friendship with Roberta. Roberta and Twyla switch places between being the protagonist and antagonist. The complex characterization structure that “Recitatif” follows makes this story a captivating read.
It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.” This quotation means that friendship is can be good, and bad. Understanding one another through good, and bad, but allowing the other to get hurt causes greater problems. This quotation relates to the novel Passing because it shows the friendship between two childhood friends who rekindle their friendship as grown adults. The novel Passing, written by Nella Larsen talks about two African American woman with different experiences. The relationship between the two African American woman who share two different lifestyles, but similar in different ways. Throughout the novel it is seen that both characters have many similarities and differences. Irene is a colored woman who is married with two children. Clare is also a colored woman who is also married, but is passing for white by hiding her true
In Sociology, stereotypes are described as "pictures in our heads" that we do not acquire through personal experience. I believe that stereotypes are a mental tool that enforces racial segregation and self-hate. As well justification for dehumanizing minorities. Such as Black women are "Mammy", "Welfare Mothers", "Uneducated", " Inferior", and "Poor". White women are "Pure", "Desirable", "Affluent" and "Superior". These stereotypes are labels that evoke images of oppression, segregation and exploitation of minorities in America. Meanwhile reinforcing the dominance in a social hierarchy.
Nella Larsen’s Passing is a novella about the past experiences of African American women ‘passing’ as whites for equal opportunities. Larsen presents the day to day issues African American women face during their ‘passing’ journey through her characters of Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry. During the reading process, we progressively realize ‘passing’ in Harlem, New York during the 1920’s becomes difficult for both of these women physically and mentally as different kinds of challenges approach ahead. Although Larsen decides the novella to be told in a third person narrative, different thoughts and messages of Irene and Clare communicate broken ideas for the reader, causing the interpretation of the novella to vary from different perspectives.