Race And Conflict In Passing By Nella Larsen

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Passing
Nella Larsen’s novel, Passing, is her second work of literature and sets the scene in the 1920s. Throughout the pages, the reader is gradually faced with several conflicts such as race and identity as narrated by the main character of the novella, Irene Redfield, a married black woman with two children for whom these conflicts arise when she re-encounters an old acquaintance, Clare Kendry. Clare is presented as the antagonist and as the opposite of Irene, and the more Clare is around, the more Irene struggles with these inner conflicts. Once Irene reaches her breaking point, she realizes that in order to maintain her lifestyle, get rid of any potential threat and protect her family she must kill Clare before her persona does any more
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Couldn’t he see, even now that it had been best? Not for her, oh no, not for her—she had never really considered herself—but for him and the boys” (Larsen 43). This not only shows the reader that Irene is all too controlling of the lives of those around her, but also that even though she claims it is all for her family, she ironically does it for her own person. The reason she insists her husband continues his career as a doctor may be because of the wealthy lifestyle it allows her to live, and have they moved to Brazil, there would be no more luxury: Irene has two maids working for her while she does close to none of the work and subsequently, because of her lifestyle, she looks down on anyone else that is below her status, even saying at one point that “Zulena, a small mahogany-coloured creature, brought in the grapefruit” (Larsen 40). Zulena is one of Irene’s maids and referring to her as a “creature” instead of as a “woman”, proves her disdain towards those who are not on the same level as her hierarchy-wise. Moreover, another reason Irene has cut off Clare from her life, in addition of her troubled marriage and luxurious lifestyle, is because Clare is ashamed of being black whereas Irene is not, although she does not mind passing for convenience—such as for hotels, getting tickets, etc. Despite passing for convenience, Irene never

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