Double Consciousness Analysis

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The Incompatibility of Passing and Double-Consciousness Nella Larsen, a luminary of the Harlem Renaissance, explores the nature of racial identity and double-consciousness in her novella Passing. W.E.B Du Bois’s theory of double-consciousness is characterized in The Souls of Black Folk as a sense of “twoness,-- an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body” (Du Bois 2). Irene and Clare, Larsen’s novella’s primary characters, both lack a “dark body” which allows them to oscillate, by choice, between playing the part of the white “American” and the “Negro”. The appeal of racial passing lies in how it provides disenfranchised minorities access to otherwise unattainable…show more content…
This is a very clear example of how Clare’s perception of herself is informed by how white society perceives her, namely in this instance as a “problem”. The only way she can alter this perception and fully become “a person” is to change her external racial identity which demands an abandonment of her black identity. Although double-consciousness is the very force that pushes Clare to pursue passing in her daily life, it is also the force that renders it impossible for her to fully reject her black identity. Perhaps this is, as Du Bois opines, that “[the American Negro] would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism…” (Du Bois 2). However, it is not that Clare “would not bleach [her] Negro soul” but rather that she cannot bleach it, regardless of her efforts. Clare does absolutely everything possible to forgo her black identity; but not even marrying a white racist and refusing to interact with blacks in any capacity allows her to deny her “Negro soul” successfully. As Clare writes to Irene: “You can’t know how in this pale life of mine I am all the time seeing the bright pictures of that other that I once thought I was glad to be free of...It’s like an ache, a pain that never ceases…” (Larsen 3). Clare’s language in this excerpt clearly conveys a sense of dissatisfaction with her “pale life” and of frustrated desire that she is no longer a part of “the other”. By equating the emotional and spiritual
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