This essay Passing has a total of 967 words and 4 pages.
In Nella Larsen’s Passing, we are privy to Irene Redfield’s commentary on her encounters with Clare Kendry. Irene presents herself as a wealthy, well educated, sophisticated woman and a respected member of the Harlem community. Conversely, she describes Clare as traitor to her people (the Harlem society) and socially undesirable due to the fact that she passes as white and marries a white man. Although Irene expresses great contempt for Clare, she also possesses a deep admiration for her. This "admiration" could also be translated into sexual desire or lust. Throughout the novel, Irene attempts to rationalize her mysterious feelings toward Clare Kendry, but she can’t. To Irene, "security was the most important and desired thing in life." (200) Her erotic feelings of adoration for Clare threatened her feeling of security, and that made Irene despise Clare. It is true that before one attempts to address the questions and problems of racial identity, the equally important questions of gender and sexual identity should be addressed. While it is true that Clare is passing, Irene is passing as well. As a Negro, Clare must "pass" to gain security in a white world, but by the same token Irene, a lesbian, must "pass" to gain security in a heterosexual society.
Until Clare arrives on the scene Irene is a "secure" woman. She busies herself with social activities and the raising of her two boys (148). However, something is very wrong. While en route to the printing shop, Irene begins to voice her concerns about "queer ideas" (sex jokes) that the boys had been coming up with (105). "If sex isn’t a joke, what is it," Brian answers (105). He goes on to say "the sooner and more he (their son) learns about sex, the better for him.....it will keep him from lots of disappointments later on" (105)" Brian’s response to her query suggests that to him, sex is a joke. Furthermore, his counter indicates that his sex life with Irene is joke. As we later learn, Brian and Irene have a "sexless marriage" and that Brian "slept in his room next to hers at night" (179). This confirms Irene and Brian’s lack of a sexual relationship. For Irene, her marriage is one of convenience, providing her with what she needs and values the most, security (200). It also provides her , as a lesbian, to "pass" in the heterosexual world.
"Irene didn’t like changes, particularly changes that affected the smooth routine of her household" (103). Irene is a very structured, organized woman. She is constantly working to main stability and security in her life. However, she is extremely attracted to Clare, one who does not seem to regard security at all. Clare is risk taker, assertive, bold and ever so dangerous, yet strangely appealing. When Irene first encounters Clare at the Drayton, she describes her with extremely erotic imagery. Irene’s descriptions of Clare are far more than mere observations. Clare’s "arresting eyes" were "mysterious and concealing" (45-46). Her lips were "sweet and sensitive...a tempting mouth" (45). "Yes, Clare Kendry’s loveliness was absolute, beyond challenge..." (46). Irene desire for Clare is extremely vivid in her depiction of the "lovely creature." When Irene is about to leave Clare at the Drayton, it seems to her "a dreadful thing to think of never seeing Clare Kendry again" (47). Irene is entranced by Clare, not only by her physical beauty, but also by her mysterious charm. As Irene becomes aware of her intense desire for Clare, she tries to rationalize her feelings. "Away from the seduction of Clare Kendry’s smile," Irene becomes quite irritated with herself because she had given in to Clare’s request that they meet again (48). Irene wonders "just what had possessed her to make her promise to find time, in the crowed days that remained of her visit" to spend with Clare (48). Whether she admits it or not, Irene is aware of her erotic feelings for Clare, and she is perturbed at herself for having them, not only because they go against the heterosexual culture, but more importantly because they threaten her security.
As Clare becomes more involved with Irene and her family, we learn of Clare’s longing to cross the color line---back into Harlem (black) society. Her daughter, Margery, is the
Topics Related to Passing
Harlem Renaissance, American literature, Passing, Literature, Nella Larsen, Clare, Irene, Fiction
Essays Related to Passing
Porgy and BessPorgy and Bess Porgy and Bess symbolizes the end of the black musical tradition that flourished in the early part of this century. The play showed the height of white appropriation of what had previously been a black cultural form. All the creative talent backstage was white. This development had been occurring slowly, throughout the 1920’s, but black artists had often worked in a variety of creative capacities. Porgy and Bess became a black musical in its most minimal sense, only as a defin
Struggling DreamsStruggling Dreams Several poems attempt to address social and political issues. In several of Langston Hughes’s poems, he expresses sociopolitical protests. He portrayed people whose lives were impacted by racism and sexual conflicts, he wrote about southern violence, Harlem street life, poverty, prejudice, hunger, hopelessness. Hughes’s poem a “Dream Deferred” was published in 1951. The poem speculated about the consequences of white’s society’s withholding of equal opportunity. The title of Lo
Alcohol And SocietyAlcohol And Society Jean Toomer Jean Toomer\'s family was not typical of migrating African Americans settling in the North, or fleeing the South. Each of his maternal grandparents were born of a caucasian father. But a speck of Black makes you Black. Thus, Toomer\'s grandfather, Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback, was a free born black, a Union officer in the Civil War and was elected to the office of Lieutenant Governor and later Acting Governor of Louisiana during Reconstruction. The Pinchback\
Zora Neale HurstonZora Neale Hurston Zora Neale Hurston Zora Neale Hurston was a phenomenal woman. At the height of her success she was known as the “Queen of the HarlemRenaissance.” She came to overcome obstacles that were placed in front of her. Hurston rose from poverty to fame and lost it all at the time of her death. Zora had an unusual life; she was a child that was forced to grow up to fast. But despite Zora Neale Hurston’s unsettled life, she managed to surmount every obstacle to become one of the most p
Old Madison Square Garden: Fond Recollections of aOld Madison Square Garden: Fond Recollections of a True Landmark From the world cup of soccer to the superbowl, people all throughout the world have dreams of being sport stars or even just meeting their favorite athlete. It is in some peoples mind, the ideal american dream. In a time known as the roaring twenties, people throughout New York were working toward the american dream. This dream included a more splendid lifestyle that allowed for freedom and fun. In the middle of the Manhattan burou
The Changing Face of BasketballThe Changing Face of Basketball Basketball has come a long way since its soccer ball and peach basket beginnings in that its style, players, facilities and leagues have developed dramatically and gained tremendous popularity. Salaries have increased from Bob Cousy\'s minute $45.00 a game (Minser 37) to Michael Jordan\'s $300,000 + per game (Minser 37). Basketball is a sport in which all ages can participate in any way, shape, or form and is a big part of American society today. In 1891 James A.
Historical Analysis On 1920sHistorical Analysis On 1920s Wedding Band by Alice Childress is a story of a love/hate interracial relationship between two lovers in the south. The play is set in South Carolina in 1918. Wedding Band truly captures the essence of the time and place in which the play was set in. That era (1915-1931) is one of the most significant in the history of this young nation. The decade of the 1920\'s is often characterized as a period of American prosperity and optimism. It was the Roaring Twenties, the
Baldwin In A MicrocosmBaldwin In A Microcosm Jessie Burke AP English-3rd Period Dr. Covel February 11, 2000 Baldwin in a microcosm Not everything that is faced can be changed but nothing can be changed until it is faced. - James Baldwin Racism has been a part of American and world history for centuries, and has become a pattern in cultures. James Baldwin was an African-American author who, like many black men and women, struggled against the inherent hate/racism in America. Baldwin had the opportunity to travel to a
Bernard MalamudBernard Malamud I. Bernard Malamud Bernard Malamud (1914-1986) was born in Brooklyn, New York. From 1932 to 1936 he studied at the City College of New York, where he received his bachelor\'s degree. From 1937 to 1938 he was a student at the Columbia University. In 1942 he received his Master\'s degree. From 1940 to 1948 he taught evening classes at the Erasmus High School, the same High School he went to from 1928 to 1932. In 1943 his first two short stories were published in Threshold and Ameri
Lesbian PoetryLesbian Poetry Lesbian Poetry Since the beginning of time writers have expressed their deepest thoughts and desires through poetry. In poetry, writers have found that they can express a thought, a memory, a person, a landscape, etc. More often authors write about love, both physical and mental. Found in this genre of love is intimate imagery, suggestive language, and exotic fanticies. Most published love poems express love relationships between men and women but what most anthologies and collect
The 1920sThe 1920s Entertainment in America was appearing all over the place. People wanted an escape from reality, they wanted to escape life. To do this, they turned to entertainment. In music, Jazz was the big hit. White composers popularized Jazz. Irving Berlin\'s Alexander Ragtime Band was a big hit through the masses. The most powerful form of entertainment was the movies. The movies were generally controlled by brilliant Jews who spent countless hours perfecting it. Great movie stars directors wer
Theme for English B by Langston HughesTheme for English B by Langston Hughes 4/10/04 Composition 2 Langston Hughes was an African American poet and author who joined other black artists to break literary barriers during the civil rights movement. The poem entitled “Theme for English B” was written thirty years or so after the birth of the HarlemRenaissance, but still embodies why the Renaissance had originated in the first place. I believe this poem reflected on Hughes’ life in general, but more importantly on the fight against the
African Americans Throughout 1917-1945African Americans Throughout 1917-1945 The history of the struggle of blacks to gain equality and freedom in America is a disturbing, grievous story, that reveals the courage and determination of the black community. In the period, 1917-1945, African Americans were concerned with achieving equality under the law. They however, fell victim to harsh discrimination from the whites. Many events such as the ‘great migration’, the ‘Black Renaissance’, black political movements, and the Great Depressio
JazzJazz What do Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith, George Gershwin, and Louis Armstrong mean to us today? All these names to us don’t really mean anything except Jazz musicians. But, about eighty years ago in the 1920’s, these names meant a lot more. These names meant “father” of the trumpet, Empress of Blues, the Song Plunger, and the Greatest. Every musician wanted to be a Louis Armstrong or a Bessie Smith, and everyone looked up to them. The 1920’s was a huge decade for the phenomena known as “Jazz”.
Claude McKay: AmericaClaude McKay: America English Literature “All aboard! Next stop…. the new world!” This phrase has been repeated many of times throughout history to all the people with hopes, dreams, and aspirations to live with dignity and absolute freedom. This was the case of one aspiring and venturous immigrant, Claude McKay. Believing in the equality and freedom of the poor and backwards peasantry he had left behind in Jamaica, he sought to establish a new life in the United States with a similar dream in h
Harlem RenaissanceHarlemRenaissance 17-04-04 “A heightened concern with artistic form and a concern for representing the social world are not at odds with one another. Indeed, new social forms require new forms of representation.” Poets and writers associated with the HarlemRenaissance manage to both represent and contradict this statement, depending on the point at which we analyze them As a relatively new social caste they saw opportunities in modern forms of artistic expression like jazz or the blues, but th
Pearl BaileyPearl Bailey 3-1-04 English Research Paper Pearl Bailey was born in March Twenty-ninth Nineteen Eighteen in Newport News, Virginia to the minister of a church known as the “Holy Roller.” Pearl Bailey never had the professional training to be a singer or any other necessary classes or teachers to become professional, yet against all odds Pearl Bailey still became famous during the HarlemRenaissance. Pearl Bailey received most of her singing education due to the fact that her father was the minis
Marcus GarveyMarcus Garvey Historians familiar with Garvey\'s career generally regard him as the preeminent symbol of the insurgent wave of black nationalism that developed in the period following World War I. Although born in Jamaica, Garvey achieved his greatest success in the United States. He did so despite the criticism of many African-American leaders and the covert opposition of the United States Department of Justice and its Bureau of Investigation (forerunner of the FBI). As a young man, Garvey had
WILLIAM EDWARD BURGHARDT DU BOISWILLIAM EDWARD BURGHARDT DU BOIS (1868-1963) Author, journalist, social reformer, activist, poet, philosopher, and educator W.E.B. Du Bois wielded one of the most influential pens in African-American history. For sixty-six years he functioned not only as a mentor, model, and spokesman for generations of black Americans but also as the conscience of black and white Americans alike who yearned for racial equality and social justice. Born in 1868 during the painful period of Reconstruction, Du Bois
Development of the United States of AmericaDevelopment of the United States of America Many peoples have contributed to the development of the United States of America, a vast nation that arose from a scattering of British colonial outposts in the New World. The first humans to inhabit the North American continent were migrants from northeast Asia who established settlements in North America as early as 8000 BC and possibly much earlier (see NORTH AMERICAN ARCHAEOLOGY). By about AD 1500 the native peoples of the areas north of the Rio Gr
Aaron Douglas' LifeAaron Douglas\' Life Aaron Douglas was born on May 26, 1899 in Topeka, Kansas. Douglas\' talents allowed him to become a successful muralist. He was commissioned to do the murals for the 1920 opening in the Club Ebony in Harlem. In 1929, he traveled to Chicago to create a mural for the Sherman Hotel\'s College Inn Ballroom. Aaron graduated with a B.A. in fine arts from the University of Nebraska in 1922. During the HarlemRenaissance, the name of Aaron Douglas was supreme as an artist among his
Langston HughesLangston Hughes Langston Hughes was born on February 1, 1902 in Joplin, Missouri. His father was James Nathaniel and his mother was Carrie Mercer Langston Hughes. His grandfather was Charles Langston, an Ohio abolitionist. As a young boy he lived in Buffalo, New York, Cleveland, Ohio, Lawrence, Kansas, Mexico City, Topeka, Kansas, Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Kansas City, Kansas. In 1914 his parents divorced and he, his mother, and his stepfather moved to Lincoln, Illinois. In high school bac