The two main characters of the story, Irene and Clare, leave the reader wanting to know more about the life that two very different cultures live. The racism, society, and views of all people have changed since the time period the book was based off of. Irene is left unaccepted into the world and ashamed to be a Negro, where Clare is fighting to keep her Negro past a secret to everyone around her. Reading Passing by Nella Larson is an eye opening experience that will have a lasting effect on the reader.
There is a lasting anger throughout the story because of the racism of the people that are surrounding Clare and Irene. Clare’s husband, John Bellew throws around racial slurs as if blacks have no meaning in the world. Clare’s husband represents all whites and how they feel toward different cultures and races in the late 1900’s. In one part he is rudely joking with Clare about her skin color: “Well, you see, it’s like this. When we were first married, she was as white as – as—well as white as a lily. But I declare she’s getting darker and darker. I tell her if she don’t look out, she’ll wake up one of these days and find she’s turned into a nigger” (Larson 39). He is talking like being a colored person is the worst thing that could happen to someone. Whites are scared to associate with blacks because they are different from themselves, and they do not know the lives blacks live. All whites look down on Irene and other colored people as if
they could never be equal. Blacks were never to be treated as equal or given respect because of the color of their skin. John explains ““Oh no, Nig,” he declared. “Nothing like that with me. I know you’re no nigger, so it’s all right. You can get as black as you please as far as I’m concerned, since I know you’re no nigger. No niggers in my family. Never have been and never will be” (40). Larson explains the way blacks were treated with Clare’s husband’s remarks.
Clare is so determined to pass as a white that she willingly lies to hide her secrets. Coloreds are so determined to pass as a white they lose sight of their surroundings. To fit into the crowd some colored people would do anything. The glares, hate words, and dictator ship that the whites think they have over the blacks forces colored people to feel beneath everyone. Once they cross over and pass they have to lie to be wanted. African Americans wash away their entire background to just be normal and have respect. Clare talks to none of her immediate family, just to hide her past. When she was “passing” she was selfish and thought that she was not hurting anyone and she was simply making her life better. Clare stated “I would if I could, but I can’t. You do not know, you don’t realize how I want to see Negroes, to be with them again, to talk with them, to hear them laugh” (71). The author describes the thoughts and emotions that a past Negro has to go through to have a “dream” life. The reader understands that blacks never fit into the...