Racial Tradition Approaches In Nella Larson's Passing

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Racial passing is the transition of a member of the African American into the white community due to their outward appearance or biracial features. According to Robert Fike Jr's "The Passing of Passing: A Peculiarly American Racial Tradition Approaches Irrelevance" the difficult situation of people living double lives trying to pass as whites for a permanent or temporary convenience during a time when it was "dangerous to be black, and especially dangerous to be black in a white neighborhood, or white establishment" inspired a number of major authors to write on the subject. Nella Larson's 1929 novel Passing focuses on the amiguousity of identity, and the process in which African Americans "passed" into the Caucasian race to avoid the stigma associated with their African Ancestry. This dilemma is shown through the conflict between the two main characters in the novel, Clare Kenry and Irene Redfeild. Irene Redfield is a sensitive, level headed African…show more content…
"It wasn't that she was ashamed of being a Negro, or even of having it declared. It was the idea of being ejected from any place, even in the polite and tactful way in which Drayton would probably do it, that disturbed her" (Larson 19). This shows that African American people felt the pressure to be white-passing in fear of being singled out, embarrassed and demeaned in front of others. Although Irene is proud to be an African American woman, in instances like these, where she is the only colored woman in an all white establishment, she feels more comfortable being seen as white-passing or Spanish. Irene's feelings about her racial identity are all mixed up; her identifying with people who "pass" shows that she uses it as a disguise to survive, while the anger that arises during the situation shows that she despises the fact that she even has to worry about why she is being stared
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