Identity In The Passing

1042 Words 5 Pages
Similarly to its coloration, the lip’s formation of a smile also emphasizes sexual freedom of a woman. While women can unveil their sexual interests through their lip shades, they can alternatively do so through their smiles. As the novel progresses, Clare not only utilizes her smile as a platform to present her sexuality, but as a way to actively lure men with her charms. For this reason, she resists the status of the sexually oppressed female by donning her sexuality on her smile. In Chicago, Irene describes Clare’s “odd upward smile..[as] too provocative” (Larsen 177). In this interaction, Irene is first drawn to the provocativeness of Clare's smile as opposed to anything else. As a result, the immediate focus on her alluring smile displays …show more content…
In the Passing, Irene and Clare are doubly repressed, once as a woman and another as a person of color. As a result, these women no longer have a self-identity, but an identity molded by social standards. Regardless of all the restraints established by their white-centric society, the two retain their emotional, sexual, and racial integrity through the dynamics of their lips. Initially seen as an image of repression, the lips transition into a medium for sexual and racial freedom. However, the usage of the lip as a mode for expression is a short term solution to the long term issue of oppression. Since expression through the lips, while liberating, is a limitation of its own. These women are unable to identify themselves beyond any other body part. Even with the limitations of the lips, society still actively wants to take it away to further retrain women of color. This final confiscation of expressive freedom is shown at the end of the novel, when Jack Bellew approaches Clare on her true racial identity. Denouncing Clare for being black, Bellew represents society’s aggressive discrimination against African Americans. Rather than explaining herself, Clare only forms “a faint smile on her full, red, lips” (Larsen 271). This response through her lips is symbolic, revealing not only her race, but her sexuality and emotions simultaneously. In a sense, she openly resists the oppression of the white dominated society by revealing herself and her rights for freedom as a woman. However, this display of freedom is transient because Clare meets her demise shortly after. Clare’s immediate death represents how women are unable to escape the abyss of oppression, no matter what they do. Ultimately, the Passing reveals how women of color are entrapped in the cycle of repression, liberation, and further

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