From could be Irene’s subconscious coming through to

From the very beginning it is knownthat Clare’s motive for passing is so thatshe can live a luxurious life with her white husband who is extremely racist.Whereas Irene is trying to pass when she goes out in society, her husband Brianis fully aware and is a black doctor. Irene and Clare’s childhoods and pastsare vague which allows there to be room for psychoanalysis, particularly withthe character Irene and her feelings towards Clare. Through psychoanalyticalcriticism that occurs in Larsen’s novel Passing build tension between Irene andClare. When Irene and Clare discusswhat it means to pass as a white woman in society. For Irene, she only tries topass when it comes to social outings, whereas Clare’s whole lifestyle rests onthe secret that she passes as a white woman. Before leaving Clare at theDrayton Irene remarks that “She wished to find out about this hazardousbusiness of “passing,” this breaking away from all that was familiar andfriendly to take one’s chance in another environment, not entirely strange,perhaps, but certainly not entirely friendly” (Larsen 15). Although Ireneunderstands what passing entails, her situation differs greatly from Clare’sbecause of what Clare stands to lose if her racist husband were to do if hefound out.

Through their conversation of how Clare has eluded her past from herhusband in order to pass, it can be inferred that Clare’s rough past was hermotivation to live a better life, which in this case meant a white woman’slife. After the Drayton meeting Irene tries to distance herself from Clare,which fails due to the persuasiveness Clare has over Irene. This idea ofdistancing herself from Clare could be Irene’s subconscious coming through toprotect her from whatever danger Clare could put Irene in. Although as Clare’spresent becomes more regular in Irene’s life, the tension builds andspeculations that Clare is having an affair with Brian force Irene to considerwhat would happen if Clare replaced Irene.       When Irene runs into Jack Bellewwhile out with her black friend Felise and exposes Clare’s secret, it exposesIrene’s deep desire to remove Clare from her life so that she can keep herstable life with Brian. Clare’s secret was meant to stay hidden in order toprotect her status, though now by chance Irene reveals her secret. From apsychoanalytic perspective, this is exactly what Irene wanted and as Larsendescribes, “Irene was conscious of a feeling of relieved thankfulness at thethought that she was probably rid of Clare, and without having lifted a fingeror uttered one word” (80).

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Though at this point Irene is considering thepossible outcomes that could occur between Jack and Clare, would he divorceher? Her inner narration demonstrates that she would clearly do anything tokeep her life, which asks the question would she ultimately kill Clare to keepher life? Ultimately with a psychoanalytic criticism of themystifying moments in Larsen’s novel Passing, it gives cause for Irene to killClare as either an act of revenge for something that happened between the twoduring their childhood, or as a means for Irene to keep her unwavering lifewith her family. By examining these moments, it reveals Irene’s true feelingstowards Clare, though it will still be unknown as to what happened between thetwo as children. Psychoanalytic criticism is limited in this sense that it canonly offer a variety of explanations for Irene’s feelings towards Clare andthere can never be a concrete answer. Although the above ideas give merit tothe argument that Irene caused Clare’s death.

When Clare and Irene discuss theact of “passing” there is a sense of jealousy that Irene has for Clare and hermaterial and social gains. According to “Nella Larsen’snovel presents us with a good view of women’s issues of the early 20th century.We see in the two characters seemingly different interpretations of what race,sexuality, and class can and should be used for. For Clare, passing takes herinto a whole new world of advantages that she would not have had if she hadremained a part of the African-American community. She gains social status andcan be seen as an object of sexual desire for many people, not only the blackcommunity.

Irene leads herself to think that passing is unnecessary, and thatshe can live a totally happy life remaining who she is. What she fails torealize is that she is jealous of Clare s status and sometimes passes herselfsubconsciously. Larsen presents to us the main point of the book that the rootof the love, hate, desire, and rejection that Irene holds for Clare is a resultof social standing, not only passing and sexuality”.The theoretical approach ofPsychoanalysis reminds us that in the end, the differences between Clare andIrene are overshadowed by their similarities revealing that their relationshipis just as significant as the issue of passing.


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