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Passing Nella Larsen Analysis

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Throughout her novel Passing, Nella Larsen explores the limits of a monochromatic world and the separation of black and white. Larsen reveals what it means to be black, what it means to be white, and ultimately the struggles one faces should they try to be both. Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry, two African-American women in post-World-War-I-America, find themselves on opposite ends of the spectrum despite having started from the same place: the ‘black’ streets of south side Chicago. Clare, passing as white, searches, from the depths of her ‘new life,’ to re-immerse herself in the life she left behind, however despite her desperate efforts, finds her self lost in a grey area. Clare has a vast hole in her identity, which progressively grows as she struggles to find herself culturally, physically and emotionally bouncing back and forth between two races.
Clare, like many others, attempted to break the idea that one had to stay grounded, chained to their race. Clare chose to neglect her black heritage in order to pass- to gain a new life that brought new opportunities. Clare was soon isolated from anything that
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She failed to fit into a life that she had asked for, and failed to fit into a life that she left behind. She tried her best to live up to her intentions and to live a life where she got both access to the privileges and wealth she had admired, as well as the comfort and belonging that came with living among her own people. Clare thought her life was “a breeze,” before she first sat with Irene on the top of the Drayton (8). From that point on Clare knew her lifestyle did not belong to her. The more and more she tried to challenge race and live on both sides of the spectrum, the more she lost her identity. Clare went from sitting comfortably with herself “on the top” of a building to her and her identity falling all the way to her eventual demise- the absolute bottom
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