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Personal Identity In Nella Larsen´S Passing

824 words - 4 pages

Disha Bahl
Deirdre Louie
Middle College Literature
7 March 2014
Two but One
In the novel, Passing, Nella Larsen presents two women, Clare and Irene who originate from the black community; however still yearn for an assured identity for themselves. Clare and Irene are childhood friends who even though being part black, are able to pass as white folk. Irene continues to be part of the black community and is considered a black woman, however this is on a superficial level. When it comes to her advantage, Irene occasionally passes as white. Clare on the other hand passes as a white woman; her lifestyle changed completely as to white standards and in. Although both women are in a dilemma regarding their true racial identity, they both wish to live as both black and white. Throughout the book, both women attempt to achieve an integrated identity, however fail do to so. Their failure in attempting to live a life both as black suggests and supports the idea that a person can only have one race as either black or white, not both.
Clare longs to be part of the black community again and throughout the book tries to integrate herself back into it while remaining part of white society. Although her mother is black, Clare has managed to pass as a white woman and gain the privileges that being a person of white skin color attains in her society. However whenever Clare is amongst black people, she has a sense of freedom she does not feel when within the white community. She feels a sense of community with them and feels integrated rather than isolated. When Clare visits Irene she mentions, “For I am lonely, so lonely… cannot help to be with you again, as I have never longed for anything before; 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 7). Clare wants the freedom to be herself again, but can only achieve so by recognizing herself in the black community. She longs to feel the comfort she once felt with her own people, and desperately wants to find a way to do so, but can not since she has passed. Even though she is part of the white community, Clare continues to be “lonely, so lonely” as that is not where she truly belongs. However, even...

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