Nella Larsen


This article studies Nella Larsen’s Passing through the unreliable narration of the novel’s key character, Irene. It goes on to explore her relationships and her judgements, which expose the twisted nature of her psychology and demonstrate that Irene is driven by fear and resentment. Irene hates the act of wanting and constantly crushes her husband’s aspirations, yet deeply desires the other focal character of the novel, Clare. She lies to herself about her tense, racially fraught relationship with her husband, as well as her repressed homosexual attraction towards Clare. These lies, combined with her deep-seated fear and hatred of desire make Irene erratic and untrustworthy. Her mindset completely warps her perspective, and in doing so, warps the entire novel. Understanding Irene’s frame of mind is the key to understanding Passing and demonstrates the extreme power that narrators wield within fiction.



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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.

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