Sexual Identity in Nella Larsen's Passing

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Michelle Adams Dr. Linda Moore English 498 06 March 2015 Sexual Identity in Nell Larsen’s Passing Women who were raised during the later 19th century were raised with patriarchal beliefs that the men are to be the head of the household and sole bread winners. Therefore, when women would marry, they would do so just to be married, that was the thing to do; to be married, have children and make the man happy. The marriage between the husband and wife was not like marriage is today. Tania Navarro Swain mentions in her essay discussing women to women relationships that “if marriage was a woman’s fate in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it became her career in the twentieth” (30). Marriage was a legal contract between a man and a woman and wasn’t considered to be anything romantic or emotional about their attachments to each other. Married men and women often slept in separate rooms and very seldom had intelligent conversations with each other. The wife was there to bear the children and take care of the home and not much else. The roles of women in marriage began to change in the early 20th century, but women still had it in their blood and minds that they were to be the housekeepers and child bearers. Swain also states that “in this patriarchal world, women find space for private emotions and friendships flourish…within the fixed frame of gender stereotypes, complicity, generosity and passion among women explodes” (30). This being said, without that emotional intimacy that a wife should get from her husband, the wife would turn to other women and form an emotional bond with them in order to satisfy the craving for emotional stability and sanity. Out of these bonds, would come very strong friendships among married women, bonds that would last a lifetime and friendships that women would not find in their marriages with their husbands. Some critics

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