Race and women relationship in nella larsen passing

race and women relationship in nella larsen passing

Larsen's Passing links race and gender in its suggestion that living In their relationship as women, Larsen displays how inauthenticity tragically forms the 1 educator answer; Who is the heroine of Passing by Nella Larsen--Irene or Clare?. In Nella Larsen's 'Passing,' Whiteness Isn't Just About Race To describe it simply as a novel about a black woman passing for white would be definitions of concepts like race and gender, and the inextricable relationship. Life of a Slave Girl, Nella Larsen's () Passing and () . the tumultuous relationship between two women; one who chooses not to.

race and women relationship in nella larsen passing

Instead she has been passing purely for personal gain. Although she grew up in the same racial world as Irene, her social circumstances were radically different. Clare passed for white because she hated being poor, not being black.

All passing narratives are about class as much as they are about race. One never passes down the social ladder; black characters become, or pose as, white in order to improve their material circumstances, or gain access in general to opportunities for personal, social, and professional advancement. The choice of individual comfort over the advancement of the race as a whole is always rendered as wrong; in most passing stories, material ambition and moral ruin are directly correlated.

By the time some passing subjects recognize the truly degraded implications of their decisions to engage in racial masquerade, it is too late. In the film Imitation of Life, the main character comes to her senses only after she finds out that her choice to pass has literally killed her mother.

The denial of the black mother is often the surest sign of the low character of those who choose to pass.

"Passing, segregation, and assimilation: How Nella Larsen changed the "" by Vivian Maguire

For one, she is not concerned with the moral implications of passing for white. Unlike other black characters whose passing enables them to marry white people, Clare does not pass for love. Even though she views passing through the lens of rank materialism, ultimately she sees passing as play. She is not wandering in the interstices of black and white.

race and women relationship in nella larsen passing

For her, passing is a sport, and she is unrivaled in her technique. Clare desires many things, among them to be among Negroes again. Clare is a gambler, playing the high stakes game of racial roulette.

Passing, segregation, and assimilation: How Nella Larsen changed the "Passing" novel

As a woman motivated by passion and excited to cross lines of propriety, Clare has a lot in common with the writer who dreamed her up: Her mother was a Danish immigrant and her father an immigrant from the Danish West Indies. Her mother married a fellow Danish immigrant, Peter Larsen, with whom she had another child. Like many fiction writers, Larsen incorporated elements of her own life into her writing. She shared with Clare the experience of being unwanted by white family members; neither Peter nor her half-sister acknowledged the ties that bound them.

Like Clare, Nella was born poor and on the wrong side of town. Not only did Larsen spend her childhood in the vice district of Chicago, she was confronted by other dangers: There was no room for individuals whose bodies failed to conform to convention.

Nella was introduced to the world of the black bourgeoisie — the world in which Irene moved easily — when she was a student at Fisk University. There she bristled at the strict codes of dress and conduct. In her novel Quicksand, Larsen describes the disdain that the main character Helga Crane has toward the smug, insular world of the black elite at the fictional college of Naxos an anagram for Saxon. Larsen went from Fisk to Denmark, where she had spent time as a child.

She returned to the United States and enrolled in nursing school, taking a position as head nurse at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, the incarnation of the vision of Booker T. Washington, and along with Fisk, a model for Naxos. It had grown into a machine.

  • In Nella Larsen’s ‘Passing,’ Whiteness Isn’t Just About Race

She resigned in A few years later, she married Elmer Imes, who was at that point one of two African Americans to have ever held a Ph. Soon her life as a writer would begin. These men were architects of the Harlem Renaissance, authors of crucial philosophies that captured the concerns of black intellectuals of the moment. They were also central figures in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, an organization for black progress that Du Bois helped to found in Irene Redfield, who prides herself on being a ticket taker for a ball for the Negro Welfare League, would have been impressed by the company Larsen kept.

It is safe to say that both Nella Larsen and her character Clare Kendry would have had easier lives as mixed-race women in the 21st century.

race and women relationship in nella larsen passing

According to the Census Brief, sincethe population reporting multiple races increased by 32 percent. Already, the structure of the new census has enabled people with complex racial backgrounds to more aptly define themselves. Irene, who prides herself on her honesty, has the most befuddled interpretation of how Clare died at the end of the story.

Clare does not redeem herself by returning to the black community; she dies, and possibly at the hands of a woman who was supposed to support her according to racial laws.

race and women relationship in nella larsen passing

The reader is compelled to sympathize with Clare while wondering what is wrong with Irene. The answer to that question is of course that Irene subscribes to the very ideas about race and ethics that the majority of Americans were invested in at that time. These racial edicts became far more pressing than the lives of individuals themselves, which Larsen recognized and set out to challenge. Larsen did this by using the established genre of the passing novel to create a depiction that draws the reader's focus to a point deeper than the act of passing itself, and directs it toward the more difficult underlying questions about race relations and racial identity.

In the next chapter I will look at the social environment that surrounded the passing phenomenon. I will discuss what social analysts and early authors of passing texts identified as motivations behind passing and examine what Nella Larsen felt actually led individuals to do so.

race and women relationship in nella larsen passing

Ultimately I will address what Nella Larsen argues all along: I will describe how one author, Charles Chesnutt, inspired Larsen to change the traditional passing figure in order to demonstrate that the race problem was not in passing, but adhering to racial constructs. The second author, James Weldon Johnson, inspired Larsen with his satirical take on passing, and motivated her to further challenge the racial restrictions on American society. Her use of an untrustworthy, but racially loyal heroine helped to reveal the pitfalls in allowing an entire civilization to be divided by racial and social roles.

Finally, I will look at two authors who succeeded Larsen, adopting her position on Americans' dependency on racial and social roles, and what is lost in succumbing to assimilation.

The first author I will discuss, Ralph Ellison, writes a novel that seemingly is not about passing at all, yet his exploration of assimilation illustrates that there is little difference between passing and assimilation to meet social expectations when both require performance and the severing of one's identity.