Passing: an Ironic Perspective

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AFRAS 260
April 16, 2013
Passing: An Ironic Perspective
Nella Larsen’s novel Passing, is both written, and set during the Post-Reconstruction Era, which refers to the period of time after the abolition of slavery. Throughout this era, hopes of eliminating discrimination recoiled and led to enforced segregation which encouraged the subordination of African-Americans. Despite African-American’s constant efforts to achieve equality in a race-dominated society, preconceived binary constructions of race led to progressively disregarded social, political, and economic inequalities between the black and white communities during the 19th and 20th centuries. The basis of racial binary constructions, were driven by slavery, and fueled by the idea of white supremacy, and black inferiority; these principles were ingrained within the American society, and were the foundation for demeaning and dismissive racial attitudes.   Demeaning can be defined as behavior that causes someone “to lower in dignity, honor, or standing.”  Dismissive is defined as “having the purpose or effect of dismissing [removing], as from one's presence or consideration.” White racial attitudes supported the idea that the African-American race was naturally of lower status, therefore rejecting their equality from consideration. When applied to racial attitudes in Passing, these behaviors are displayed in situations rejecting racial equality, interracial relations and relationships, and both the physical and emotional act of passing. Nella Larsen’s setting allows for the strategic use of her reader’s point of view to utilize the aspects of irony in the text to protest the demeaning, and dismissive racial attitudes of white supremacy and black inferiority. The Post-Reconstruction Era setting Larsen employs, allows the reader to conceive a background perspective of the racial attitudes presented throughout the text. Due to the progression of demeaning, and dismissive racial attitudes, blacks and whites...
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