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940479126 Eng. 301 12/7/2018 Paper Fnal 301 In Nella Larsen’s “Passing” readers are told the story of the life of Irene Redfield, an African American woman of light complexion, and her childhood friend Clare Kendry, who arrives and interjects herself into Irene’s life. Irene begins to perceive that Clare is upsurping her carefully built status in the African-American community, and this ultimately culminates in a confrontation between the two women and Clare’s racist husband, John Bellow, leading to Clare’s death. The story of “Passing” is often examined by critics, such as Jordan Landry or Deborah McDowell, with heavy emphasis on the psychology of the latent sexual desires of Clare and Irene. While there is much to be said about this sexual undertone being a major source of character motivation throughout “Passing,” there has been a distinct lack of attention paid to the developmental psychology and resulting economic influence that influence Clare and Irene’s personalities and actions. The circumstances that a person faces at an early age can drastically influence the kind of person they will become later in life. This is especially true with traumatic experiences that someone encounters in early stages of development. Many African Americans faced situations that would have contributed to such developmental influences, and a great many of those were brought on by economic factors, such as disenfranchisement. This, in turn, might create a deeply rooted desire to reach a higher social and economic standing later in life if they either were raised with excess or struggled from an early time in their lives. Looking at Nella Larsen’s “Passing” with these ideas in mind can shed some much needed light on the source of
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the conflict between Clare and Irene, especially in regards to Irene’s distrust and contempt of Clare. Psychological influences during early to mid stage development are a proven part of human development, and has been shown to affect how a person develops and what actions they might take in adulthood. Because of this the psychological has become a focus of critics The innate contention between “Passing’s” two main characters, Clare and Irene, has been a major subject of criticism, as it is the driving force behind much of the story. Many critics examine this relationship through the lense detailing the latent, homosexual desires between Clare and Irene and attempt to understand how this relationship changes the two women and the story altogether. For these two women, settling into their lives is paramount; especially Irene who values her perceived security above all else (McDowell 372). Clare, meanwhile, is willing to put up with a belligerent, racist husband and hide her real self. The cusp of the ciritism comes when also examining the intense, suppressed sexual desire that the tIrene seems to feel towards Clare. This, for them, becomes another aspect of themselves that could result in their lives being drastically
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