Passing by Nella Larsen

Passing by Nella Larsen
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Passing by Nella Larsen is a novel about two women who pass as white. They are friends from childhood, but their lives take different paths. One woman marries a white man and lives a life of privilege, while the other woman remains single and struggling. The novel explores the different choices the women make and the consequences of those choices. It is a powerful story about race, identity, and friendship.

The different sides of Passing by Nella Larsen

Nella Larsen’s “Passing” tells the story of two African-American women who are friends, but who come from different backgrounds. Irene is light-skinned and can “pass” for white, while her friend Clare is dark-skinned. The novel explores the tensions that arise between the two women as a result of their different skin colors.

On one level, the novel is about the difficulties that light-skinned African Americans faced in the early 20th century. Because they could “pass” for white, they were often seen as traitors to the black community. They also faced discrimination from whites, who were often suspicious of their true racial identities.

On another level, the novel is about the power of friendship and the ways that it can transcend race. Despite their different skin colors, Irene and Clare are true friends who care deeply for each other. In the end, their friendship is stronger than the societal forces that seek to divide them.

Themes and messages in Passing by Nella Larsen

Passing by Nella Larsen is a novel about two women who pass as white in a society that is deeply segregated by race. The novel explores the themes of identity, race, and gender, and how they intersect in the lives of its two main characters.

The novel’s two main characters are Clare Kendry and Irene Redfield. Clare is a light-skinned black woman who has passed as white her entire life. She is married to a white man and has two children. Irene is also light-skinned, but she has chosen not to pass as white. She is married to a black man and has one child.

The novel explores the different ways that Clare and Irene deal with their racial identities. Clare is content to live her life as a white woman, but Irene feels a strong connection to the black community. This conflict comes to a head when Clare’s husband, Mr. Kendry, discovers her true racial identity. He is shocked and disgusted, and he demands that she leave him and her children.

The novel also explores the theme of gender. Both Clare and Irene are constrained by the expectations of their respective genders.

The unique plot of Passing

In Nella Larsen’s novel Passing, the lives of two women of color intersect in a unique way. Irene Redfield is a light-skinned black woman who is married to a successful doctor. Clare Kendry is a dark-skinned woman who “passes” as white. The two women were friends in college, but have since lost touch. However, their lives become intertwined again when Clare begins dating Irene’s husband’s best friend, Brian Winter.

As the novel progresses, it becomes clear that Clare is not content with just passing as white. She wants to be white. She marries a white man and has a child with him, despite the fact that she knows it is not socially acceptable. Irene, on the other hand, is content with her life as a black woman. She has a successful career and a happy marriage.


When Nella Larsen’s novel Passing was published in 1929, it was met with both critical acclaim and controversy. The story of two light-skinned African-American women who “pass” for white, and the tragedy that ensues when their friendship is revealed, struck a nerve in a country still struggling with race relations.

Critics praised the novel for its honest portrayal of race and its effect on relationships, while others condemned it for what they saw as its negative portrayal of black people. Regardless of the mixed reception, Passing remains an important work of literature that continues to provoke thought and discussion.

If you haven’t read Passing, I urge you to do so. It’s a powerful story that will stay with you long after you’ve finished the last page.