The Theme of Racism in Passing

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Passing: Exploring Themes of Racism and Female Friendships

Passing is a novel about two friends from childhood, one being proud of her race whereas the other one passed into the white world to get married for riches. This novel brings into light two important themes, racism and female friendships.

Racism: Loyalty and Identity

In terms of racism, while characters in this novel are regularly tangled in matters of their racial identities, there is a definite sentiment of racial loyalty existing midst them which favor black people as they are never entirely accepted by the white people. Irene feels loyalty to her black roots and through her children and marriage she has chosen the life of a black person, even though she uses her European appearances to her advantage in several occasions. For instance, Irene says, “I'm really not such an idiot that I don't realize that if a man calls me a nigger, it's his fault the first time, but mine it he has the opportunity to do it again” (Larsen 185). While taking tea with Gertrude and Clare, Irene feels it essential to speak in defense to black people, and she is annoyed by Jack Bellew and them when they are against black people.

Female Friendships: Selfishness and Competition

The second theme of female friendships is also evident in the novel. Women are mostly labeled as selfish and that their relationship does not last long. Clare says, “What are friends for, if not to help bear our sins?” (Larsen 75). They want friends to gossip with, for shopping and to covertly compete with however do not like having their companions doing much better in any way. Clare and Irene mirror this form of competitive female dynamic. The two make good companion up to the point that Irene realizes her husband, Brian, is admiring Clare. Irene is resolved to separate them and to shamble Clare’s happiness. She intends to do this by making her husband discover Clare’s reality that she is a mulatto.

Works Cited

Larsen, Nella. Passing. 2018.

December 12, 2023



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