Passing by Nella Larsen

Nella Larsen, involves three main characters, but is mainly centered around Clare Kendry and Irene Redfield, both light skinned, biracial women. Clare who happens to have adopted the life of a white woman, is married to a white man who knows absolutely nothing about her true identity. Her purpose for attempting to “pass” was so that she could enjoy all of the social privileges that whites were able to enjoy. Irene, on the other hand, only passes when it is purposeful. This seemingly modern text relates closely to the 1940’s study, conducted by Mamie & Kenneth Clark.

In their research, the two conducted what is now referred to as the famous “Doll Study,” using four identical dolls, only varying in color. Those being surveyed were children between the ages of three to seven; they were asked to identify both, the race of the dolls and which color doll they preferred. A vast majority of the children preferred the white doll and assigned positive characteristics to it. In correlation with Clare Kendry, one could uggest that she too is fond of the physical characteristics of white women. Her desire to pass, could have been sparked by childhood experiences.

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However, if given the opportunity to pass, the thought of actually passing would probably never develop into anything more than just that, a thought. When you know your history, you are able to be proud of your heritage. Therefore, based on the contextual evidence found in the following excerpt: “She wished to find out about this hazardous business of “passing,” this breaking away from all that was amiliar and friendly to take one’s chances in another environment, not entirely strange, perhaps, but certainly not entirely friendly,” one could infer that Irene, for one, was a dare devil and maybe got a thrill from Clare’s secretive life.

She acknowledged that it was not entirely friendly, but still shows interest. Passing, in my opinion, suggest that one isn’t true to themselves, and that is the primary reason why would not pass, if given the option.

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