Passing

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Sexual Attraction In Passing

In Passing, Nella Larsen’s focuses on the 1920’s, a time when African American people played a major role in society and culture. Although black people were very prominent during this time, the denial of racial identity in order to achieve success was an issue. Throughout the novella, attraction to the unknown leads to a question of sexuality. Irene is sexually attracted to Clare and the allure of risk she brings with her. Clare’s attraction to Irene, however, is more driven by the desire to get the life she wants. Throughout the story Irene fights her attraction to risk, ultimately leading her to the realization that the only way for her to be safe and secure is by, literally, pushing away Clare. In Nella Larsen’s Passing the idea of a sexual attraction between Clare and Irene is an subtle but driving force for many of the women’s actions throughout the novella. Throughout the novella, it is clear that Irene has complicated feelings for Clare. Though the language Irene uses to describe Clare’s appearance, there is an undertone of sexual attraction. However, at some points in the novella it seems as though Irene is trying to deny her feelings for Clare. In the beginning, when Irene receives the first letter from Clare, her complicated feelings for Clare are expressed through her memory of Clare’s personality. Irene remembers Clare as having “nothing sacrificial in [her] idea of life, no allegiance beyond her own immediate desire. She was selfish, and cold, and hard” (5). Irene tries to block out her attraction to Clare by convincing herself that she is a self-involved person. However, when Irene is reunited with Clare in the hotel, she is filled with only positive and admiring thoughts of her. After her conversation with Clare, Irene thought “it seemed a dreadful thing to think of never seeing Clare Kendry again. Standing there under the appeal, the caress, of her eyes, Irene had the desire, the hope, that this parting wouldn't...
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