Analysis Of Passing By Nella Larsen

Decent Essays
Irene’s repressed sexuality

According to the Introduction of Passing Penguin Edition the term passing can be defined as “the movement of a person who is legally or socially designated black into a white racial category or white social identity” (viii). In the novel Passing by Nella Larsen, readers can see passing not only as a racial activity but also as one related to sexuality. The main character Irene Redfield is passing as straight woman that ends up killing Clare Kendry, the woman she seems to be in love with. On the surface, Irene’s motivation to kill Clare is the possible affair between Clare and Bryan but in fact it is more than that. Irene’s unconscious knows that the only way to keep her lesbianism repressed is by maintaining a
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Irene’s queer personality lives repressed in her id and the attraction can be noticed through many too detailed descriptions of Clare body parts and personality. “Her lips, painted a brilliant geranium red, were sweet and sensitive and a little obstinate. A tempting mouth” (45). It is impressive to see how this supposedly straight woman describes Clare’s mouth as tempting, yet she does not stop there, because Irene also describes her voice, “What was it about Clare's voice that was so appealing, so very seductive?” (52). The utilization of these adjectives is questionable because even when Irene talks about her husband Brian, she never uses adjectives that could express desire or even love. Irene is aware that her marriage is an arrangement where according to Brian sex is a just grand joke (60).
Irene wants to control her relationship with Clare and seems frustrated as she loses control when Clare is around. One occasion, Irene tries hard not to accept Clare’s invitation to meet her but ends up going. Later, Irene’s anger goes away just by the power of Clare’s smile, "And under her potent smile a part of Irene's annoyance with herself fled”. This constant loose of power makes Irene vulnerable and the possible affair between Clare and Brian gives Irene a motive for hating her instead of admitting her lesbianism and losing the life she has worked so hard to build.
Furthermore, Irene wants to have Clare gone from her life in order to get rid of the inside battle between
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