Summary Of Nella Larsen's Passing

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In Passing, Nella Larsen narrates the story of Irene Redfield, a reserved woman who eventually encounters her childhood friend, the fierce and seductive Clare Bellew. Clare is a black woman with olive skin who is able to pass as white in all areas of society. She uses this attribute to her own benefit, and though when she was younger she denied her race, since after she reencountered Irene she started to rethink her situation. Although Irene is also able to pass, she maintains a pride of her race, which does not allow her to deny it, unless when needed. In spite of Irene not enjoying reencountering Clare, she cannot imagine the unexpected changes her life will take as her friend progressively enters her life. Throughout the story, Irene shows …show more content…

She also uses her marriage and motherhood as a social status by attempting to show devotion and organization to other people, even though her relationship with Brian and her two children are not peaceful. The biggest issues she faces are remaining truthful to her own values and her race, but the presence of Clare makes it difficult for her to keep it both untouchable, considering that her friend’s situation requires giving up one of her priorities. Irene shows herself as an odd character, unreliable and judgmental. She most likely has Clare as a role model – one that she cannot be – but her friend disturbs her peace and security, one of the things she most values. For instance, she mentions, “[…] she was aware that, to her, security was the most important and desired thing in life. Not for any of the other, or for all of them, would she exchange it. She wanted only to be tranquil […] unmolested, to be allowed to direct for their own best good the lives of her sons and her husband” (Larsen 65). That is, Irene’s fears are proportional to how safe she feels. What guarantees safety for Irene is maintaining an immaculate social image of a good wife and mother, keeping Brian’s desires under control, and keeping her boys’ innocence. Not only Clare changes the way Irene sees herself, but she also threatens Irene’s security, which causes the wife and mother great confusion, given that her family and the benefits of appearance she draws from it are her only basis. Ultimately, Irene is aware that her identity is dependent on these two factors, and Clare is a potential threat to the order of her life, which explains her confusion and growing

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