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Passing by Nella Larsen

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Lindsay Post

on 16 December 2015

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Transcript of Passing by Nella Larsen

Historical Context
Written in 1929 during the height of Harlem Renaissance movement
African Americans tried breaking free of white racist beliefs which influenced their relationship to their heritage and each other
One-drop rule
Race Riots
Jim Crow Laws

Racial Passing
When a person classified as a member of one racial group is also accepted as a member of a different racial group
Debating the Issue
Clare and Irene
Childhood friends who unexpectedly rekindle their friendship
Met in Chicago the first time
Irene did not want to be friends with Clare but Clare insisted
Irene remains loyal to her black identity (signified by marrying a black man) and only passes when it is convenient
Clare abandons her black identity (marries a white man) and passes permanently
Passing by Nella Larsen
Internal conflict
Irene is frustrated with Clare's lack of pride and identity with their race
Clare is unsure where she belongs
External Conflict
The affair
Being biracial and passing will create conflict
Did Clare commit suicide or did Irene push her out of the window?

Racial Identity and Acceptance
How we define ourselves and how we let others define us
Clare did not want to identify with her race - would not accept her background
unable to sever ties between true identity and her preferred lifestyle
Irene was frustrated with Clare's inability to be proud of her race
economic and social opportunities taking the place of one's race/culture
tension led to Irene killing Clare

Racial passing leads to emotional and psychological instability that builds tension and eventually leads to Irene killing Clare.
Irene pushed Clare out of the window due to the internal conflicts regarding passing within herself and the external conflicts between the two women
Irene is guilty
Full transcript