Analysis Of Passing By Nella Larsen

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For decades and decades, racism has been a constant issue throughout the world. During the Harlem Renaissance, black literature was at it's peak and ignited serious debates having to do with race and the problems that come along with it. Nella Larsen's novel Passing is full of debatable topics such as the way race defines some people and whether or not it is acceptable to "pass" as a different race other than your own. In the novel, two light skinned African American woman struggle with the conflicts of American racism and alienation during this time period. Their difficulties with identifying with their race further lead to deep insecurities and anxieties, creating major tragedies and severe consequences. The way Nella Larsen uses the term…show more content…
The motivation for passing as white woman in Clare's life does not mean that she feels that being African American is below being white, but she feels that passing allows her to escapes the struggles that most African American's faced at the time and she will further be able to endure greater economic and social opportunities. The way Irene only "passes" as a white woman when she feels is necessary shows that passing to her means that the color of her skin is something she can use to her advantage and doesn't fully respect her race. Though she is married to a successful African American man, she still feels that her high status in the black society is not enough as times. Through Irene's character, Larsen shows readers that passing as a different race can severely shred the dignity of a person. Irene is generally proud of being African American but when she passes as a white woman on occasion, you can tell that she loses some of her dignity since she feels as if she is sinking down to Clare's level. In my eyes, I feel as if Irene is a hypocrite because of her disapproval of Clare's passing, but considers it acceptable for herself to pass when she feels it is needed. The…show more content…
Clare's death at the end of the novel gives Irene a chance at living a genuine, free life and she may finally be able to escape from all of the secrets she has been carrying her entire life. Another meaning of the word passing in the novel is the way Irene passed as a heterosexual although she had true feelings for Clare. Though Irene was not expecting these feelings to arise, the realization of how she truly feels allowed her to understand herself more than she ever has and affirm her real identity. Clare has found security in the white culture but desires to feel free and happy in the African American culture again. By passing through Irene, Clare believes she will be able to reclaim her black heritage and return back to who she used to be many, many years ago. The process of passing in both Clare and Irene's life throughout the novel restricted them from fully existing in a white or black world. These women used the different forms of passing as ways to try and find themselves but this only held them back from fully expressing all sides of their selves. The color of your skin does not define you as a person and Clare eventually learns this and regrets ever passing as white. Yes, living as a white citizen at this time period may have been much easier than living as an African American but if you are not

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