During a time where African American literature was fueled with racial segregation and pride in ones race during the Harlem Renaissance, Zora Neale Hurston offers a different and controversial approach with her literary work “How it feels to be colored me”.(13) In the works Hurston uses several colloquialisms, anecdotes, imagery and figurative expression to invite the reader on an adventure filled with pleasure. The poem takes the reader from the beginning of the Hurston’s childhood back in Eatonville, Florida into adulthood in Orlando, Florida. Hurston proves that overcoming racism can be accomplished by uniting the public and ignoring the visual difference in a person’s outer appearance. Hurston’s strength, individuality and resilience scream
Clare Kendry in Larsen’s Passing, is a very complex character. She is an African American woman, who is “passing” as a white Caucasian. It all started when her Dad died when she was little, and was taken to her white aunts. Her aunts treated her like she was the help, so this made her want to be wealthy when she is older. Irene is her childhood friend, who saw Clare go through her tough times. They grew apart for a while, but met up in Chicago a couple of years ago. Clare has made herself an outsider through her actions. She is an outsider because she tries to pass as a Caucasian, uses her friends for her own benefit, and secretly wants to get back to her cultural roots.
In Nella Larsen’s Passing: A Problem of Interpretation, Claudia Tate argues that race “is not the novels foremost concern, but is merely a mechanism for setting the story in motion” (344). Tate’s decision to focus on the “psychological ambiguity” (343) of the novel forbids her to elaborate on the relation between race and social class. As a result, I disagree with certain statements from Tate’s argument due to the lack of acknowledging the issue regarding race and social class. Tate initially claims that Irene’s understanding of race becomes a concern “when the impending exposure of Clare’s racial identity threatens to hasten the disruption of Irene’s domestic security” (Tate 344). However, Irene’s fear of being spotted as a
The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B Dubois is a influential work in African American literature and is an American classic. In this book Dubois proposes that "the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line." His concepts of life behind the veil of race and the resulting "double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others," have become touchstones for thinking about race in America. In addition to these lasting concepts, Souls offers an evaluation of the progress of the races and the possibilities for future progress as the nation entered the twentieth century.
Zora Neale Hurston’s “How It Feels to Be Colored Me” can be interpreted as a reverse response of W. E. B. DuBois’ concept of “double consciousness” that he describes in “The Souls of Black Folk.” Hurston shows that not all African Americans experience a sense of double consciousness and that some are instilled with the self confidence required to embrace one’s “blackness.” First, it may be helpful to define consciousness before attempting to explain the notion of double consciousness. Consciousness is defined as the state of being mentally aware of something: oneself, in this essay. Therefore, we can now define double consciousness as the state of an individual being mentally aware of “two selves”: one as you see yourself and the second as
Passing tells a story about Clare Kendry, a light skinned mulato woman who lived with her white aunts and passed as white. Clare then married a to a rich white man named Jack Bellew and never told him about her African ancestry. This story is told from Irene Redfield’s first point of view. Irene Redfield was a long friend of Clare who also was a light skinned mulatto. In contrast of Clare, Irene lived as a proud African American woman who married to a successful black man named Brian and lived on Harlem.
Nella Larsen’s Passing uses the two main characters to explore how the idea of racial identity is not a discussion that is black and white, but rather one that is grey. The story is utilized to demonstrate how some individuals of black complexion fell trap to societal standards, causing them to abandon their own race in search of better life. But, in all actuality, the text argues that the pursual of another identity ultimately causes an individual to lose their own self identification.
Although Irene feels that there is "nothing sacrificial in Clare's idea of life, no allegiance beyond her own immediate desire," it is apparent that Clare's desire to return to her African American race is honest, even if the motives seem rather one-sided (Larsen 144). Irene considers Clare to be "selfish, cold and hard" (Larsen 144). Irene also feels that Clare does not have "even in the slightest artistic or sociological interest in the race that some members of other races displayed…[She] cared nothing of the race, she only belonged to it" (Larsen 182). This may be true, but it does not diminish Clare's own pain at having to deny her African American heritage, and her desire to return to it. Irene represents a portion of society who feel that people who pass must have a morally acceptable reason to return to their African American roots such as a desire to rebel against a white society that has forced them into the role of a white person. Just because Clare feels "no permanent allegiance to either the black or white worlds or any of the classic anguish of the tragic mulatto" does not mean that she is not a tragic mulatto (Washington 48). In her own way, "Clare Kendry belongs with that group of tragic mulattos…emerg[ing] as an individual, not as a stereotype" (Davis 98). Because she wants to return to her own race on her own terms illustrates her individuality in the face of the
Racial identity is an important concept that everyone must deal with in their life. It is an individual’s sense of having their identity be defined by belonging to a race and or ethnic group. How strong the identity is depending on how much the individual has processed and internalized the sociological, political, and other factors within the group. In some instances, people do not identify with their race and they will “pass” as another. Nella Larsen, an African American writer and prominent member of the Harlem Renaissance movement, she explores the consequences of “passing”. Larsen’s Passing is a novel that challenges the concept of ethnicity, race and gender while revolutionizing the idea of what we describe as identity. The novel explores the issue of race through vivid plotting that depicts a mentally touching story of affecting boundaries in the early American society. The novel also explores the effects of racial construction on a person through multiple levels. Through Larsen’s characterization and setting she is able to bring out the social construction of race in an enjoyable and educated format in which race, class distinction and identity themes are intertwined. Larsen herself often struggles with identity, as she grew up being raised by an all-white household after her father, a black West Indian, disappeared from her life. Larsen depicts the theme of racial identity by using two women characters, both of which are attractive, and are “light” enough to be able
Passing” by Nella Larsen is a great piece of art, that is mostly concentrated on the act of passing as a member of other race in order to assimilate with them and cover their own race. I have to be honest through reading the book I developed love hate relationship because how this book was structured. It is filled with really charismatic personalities such as Claire Kendry or Irene Redfield but at the same time I was really frustrated how they behave themselves regarding their race. For someone who never had any conflicts regarding race it was really hard for to rationalize Clare’s or Irene’s actions that involved covering their own identity to benefit from it either socially or financially. Book still lacks clarity in most of the cases that happen in story, for example ending where Clare dies but it might be also seen as way for reader to think and guess who might be the murderer. Even though this story takes place in the early 20th century when the African American society was still harshly treated by white society, I think we can still see a lot of racial conflicts that happen nowadays among all races that live in big cities such as New York or Paris and etc. Also, depiction of how race might be sign of belonging to specific class was interesting topic. Most importantly what frustrates me most in the story is how racial difference is troubling or forcing characters act in specific ways. By that I mean how Clare went extra mile and even married a white bigot John Bellew
It doesn’t take long to figure out that race and ethnicity issues continue to affect America - a quick glance at the news will show the latest riot, hate crime, or police brutality incident. This centuries old struggle has given rise to a number of literary works on the topic, many of which take a different approach to the issue. W.E.B. Du Bois, for instance, published the work The Souls of Black Folk in 1903, arguing for blacks’ right to equality in a horrifically segregated society. In these essays, Du Bois coined the term “double-consciousness,” wherein those with black skin must view the world both from their own perspective, and from the perspective of the predominately white society. The short story Recitatif by Toni Morrison explores this concept through the removal of the characters’ races, and the film Do the Right Thing, directed by Spike Lee, tells a story to demonstrate it. While the former shows double-consciousness through the usage of ambiguity, the latter almost directly references the concept. Taken together, these two sources argue a multi-faceted version double-consciousness, wherein society alienates the characters in ways that go beyond just the color of one’s skin.
She erases the blackness of the woman to justify her actions, a common endeavor in white America’s exploitation of the black body. This endeavor is evident of the
The idea of double consciousness, termed by W.E.B. Du Bois, for African Americans deals with the notion that one’s self has duality in being black and American. It is the attempt to reconcile two cultures that make up the identity of black men and women. One can only see through the eyes of another. A veil exists in this idea, where one has limits in how he or she can see or be seen. This individual is invisible to the onlookers of the veil, and those onlookers may be invisible to the individual. This then alters how one can truly interpret their conscious. This concept is one that has been explored in various themes of literature,
Discussions of loving blackness in hooks’ class stems from her reading of Nelia Larson’s novel Passing. hooks wants to discuss Clare’s love of blackness and the consequence of her love for her race. She writes, “I asked the class to consider the possibility that to love blackness is dangerous in a white supremacist culture-so threatening, so serious a breach in the fabric of the social order, that death is the punishment” (9). Death in society can be literal, but it can also take other forms, such as isolation and self-segregation. hooks’ students’ stark refusal to discuss loving blackness is a testament to these impediments and how they have been fixed in the minds of citizens white and black.