Summary Of Passing On The Surface

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Larsen challenged the traditional ideologies of identity politics at the time. Her second published novel, Passing on the surface seems to explore the problem of African American women struggling to come to terms with their racial identity. Although the novel has been described as being part of the literary genre of the tragic mulatto —a story of a beautiful light-skinned mulatto passing for white in high society— whose central narrative focuses on the protagonist struggling with their mixed heritage and unable to identify of find their place with either whites or blacks. The narrative begins with the protagonist Irene passing in the Drayton restaurant and subsequently reacquainting with her childhood friend the deuteragonist Clare Kendry who…show more content…
According to Cheryl Wall, Irene is the ‘perfect lady’ and Clare, ‘the exotic other’. Although Irene expresses extreme disapproval of Clare’s life choices, it seems that it’s because Irene secretly desires to be white, not Clare. This is evident by her intent to remain steadfast to her middle class conservative values like family and stability. Clare poses a threat to this stability not only because she is the exotic other but also because of this she inspires spontaneity and frivolity within her friends, family and household. Irene’s main disagreement in her sexless marriage is allowing Brian to go to Brazil, a place far away from their norm and outside of her comfort zone. Clare is Brazil personified. Even though Clare lives in white society she is actively conscious of her racial identity whilst Irene just wants to be regarded as simply an american. Both have different motivations for ‘passing’ as they have come from different economic…show more content…
Both Clare and Irene take part in the passing phenomenon, but Irene seems to harbour a certain amount of jealousy of Clare, who is able to infiltrate white society completely, while still having a sense of her black identity. Irene enjoys the conveniences of passing, but maintains of a sense of superiority over Clare, and at the same time feels threatened by her. Actually scholars have theorised that Passing as a novel is not majorly about race and race is just used as a literary device to move the plot along. Scholars have identified a homoerotic subtext between Irene and Clare, centred on the erotic undertones in Irene's descriptions of Clare and appreciation of her beauty. The language that Larsen uses to describe Clare when Irene comes downstairs to find her waiting suggests a suppressed attraction especially noted when Irene acknowledges a shared appreciation with her husband. The novel's central metaphor of "passing" under a different identity "occurs at a surprisingly wide variety of levels," including sexual. Irene has exchanged love and passion for security with

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