Comparison and Contrast of Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry
in Nella Larsens Passing
The book Passing by Nella Larsen is unique in some way, throwing up in the air prejudices and social expectations regarding ethnicity, gender, and factors that make up identity. According to Marita Golden, Larsen introduces two fragile characters to get her sentiments across. They are Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry, who help to show a renewed concept of identity. For instance, Larsen argues that standard expectation is that a person remains true to their racial background (35). However, Larsen shows us Clare Kendry who is ignorant of her ethnic background. Apart from that, Irene Redfield has a hard time as she lives at a period when homosexuality is unacceptable and weird thing in society. So, this paper tries compare and contrast Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry in Nella Larsens book Passing.
According to Larsen, identity is beliefs, personal traits and qualities that make a person unique. Clara is obviously different from Irene, as she does not associate herself with her cultural as well as her racial heritage, contrary to the beliefs of Irene,who respects her ethnicity, though, trying to fit in the society as a lesbian (36).
The significance of Clare is that she is a mulatto, which means that she has both white and black ancestry. However, society expects her to live in a state of flux whereby they seek to establish their identity through their historical background. But, Larsen depicts Clare as a person who does not conform to the stereotype, as she does not seek to find out her black ancestry in order to have a sense of identity (37). Instead, she marries a white man, who is a racist but at the same time he gives her everything her heart dreams about. On the other hand, Irene Redfield suffers from her sense of identity existing at a time when to love another women is frowned upon.
The other difference between the two personages is that Irene is prejudiced and derives a profound satisfaction in judging women by their husbands. She wants to achieve self-satisfaction comparing herself with other people to determine her status in the society, despite her husband being a doctor (Larsen 57). While, Clare is different from Irene, in that she is contented about her marriage to John as he is wealthy man who can give her a place in the higher society.
Summing up, we see that similarity between Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry is that both women yearn for material possession at the other peoples expense .Irene thinks that Clare cheats on her to find a place in the society, despite having a deep infatuation for her (Larsen 54). On the contrary, Clare breaks the stereotype on identity when she does not seek to find out her historical background associated with her black ancestry. She does this by immersing herself with the search of publicity and possession of wealth by marrying a racist husband, John. Both Irene and Clare demonstrate that search for identity is fatal and not tragic as illustrated through the demise of both of these women in an endeavor to determine their status in the society.
Larsen, Nella. Passing. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2012. Print.
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