Nella Larsen´S " Passing": Why Claire Had To Die!

2016 words - 8 pages

Explain the importance of the concluding scene of Passing to our understanding of the novella. Your response should do more than argue Irene killed Clare, it should explain how this result is forshadowed in the text. In other Words, your essay should be able to answer the larger question concerning why Clare seemingly " has" to die.

The novel " Passing" by Nella Larsen deals with an America in 1929. The " Golden Era", " The twenties" were very famous in American history. It was the time of the Prohibition, an amendment that outlawed alcoholic beverages. It was a decade of change, women got the right to vote in 1920 with the 19th amendment. " Modern Life" was marked by electric tools, the radio, the movie theatres, the car as a mass transportation system, big malls and the mass consumption. An African- American was voted in the House of Representative in Southern- Chicago. But " The Twenties" had also something bad to offer, with the rising of the Ku Klux Klan, between 1921 and 1930, 246 African- Americans got killed and in 1929 the Great Depression started.
It was also the time that a lot of unemployed blacks moved to the bigger cities in the North especially Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York. The result of this cultural migration was the spreading of Jazz and African- American Literature. From 1920 until about 1930 an unprecedented outburst of creative activity among African- Americans occurred in all fields of art. Beginning as a series of literary discussion in the lower and upper Manhattan, this African- American cultural movement became known as " The New Negro Movement" and later as Harlem Renaissance. More than a literary movement and more than a social revolt against racism, the Harlem Renaissance exalted the unique culture of African- Americans and redefined African- American expression.
In the novel " Passing" Nella Larsen describes the problem of being African- American but while looking like a white American. Clare Kendry passes for white and lived a white life for many years, but is still not happy with her situation. At the end of the novel she dies. Throughout the story it gets clear that Clare did not have a chance to be happy or survive in this world at that time. Before deciding to pass for white, Clare lived an African American identity, not as Irene does as a member of the black middle class, but first as an impoverished daughter of an alcoholic janitor. After the death of her father she lived with her two white great-aunts who treat Clare as if they were ugly step-sisters in the Cinderella tale. Clare was unhappy with the situation. " I was determined to get away, to be a person and not a charity or a problem... I know I wasn't bad- looking and that I could ´pass´...when I used to go over to the South Side, I used almost to hate all of you" ( Passing 188). Clare turns her back on her back round and where she came from. I guess for a lot of African- Americans that would be a shame.
Clare marries John Bellew...

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