Comparing Nella Larsen 's Passing And F. Scott Fitzgerald 's The Great Gatsby

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The similarities between Nella Larsen’s Passing and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby are fascinating because, among other things, they both portray characters whose hope and progression are cut short by racism, sexual anxiety and nativism. Both novels illustrate conflicts between the past and present that highlight the paradox of what should be the traditional American dream: growth, prosperity and love. These characters embody a restlessness, self-inventiveness and movement that aggravate those who wish to follow a similar but more archaic definition of the American identity, resulting in tragic consequences that leave no opportunity for the beautiful dreamers to reach their desired goals. The protagonists of the novels are depicted as passers who try to return to an earlier state of their lives, which largely make up the entire structure of the narratives. While Passing deals primarily with racial passing, The Great Gatsby deals with class passing and the uncomfortable introduction of “new money” to an “old money” world. When discussing Gatsby’s origins, Mary Balkun, author of The American Counterfeit: Authenticity and Identity in American Literature and Culture observes:
Gatsby’s experience with Daisy initiates him into the world of the remarkable, and he can never again be satisfied with less than this. In other words, he is filled with curiosity, with “a desire and a passion: a desire to see, learn or possess rare, new secret or remarkable things, in other words

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