Passing by Nella Larsen

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  • Irene's Apartment, Harlem
  • The Drayton Hotel, Chicago
  • Clare's Tea Party
  • Irene Redfield, a mulatto mother of two sons, lives in Harlem, New York. One day, she notices an Italian letter in her mailbox that stood out from the rest. It was a letter from Clare Kendry, an old friend of Irene from high school who wants to meet up with her again. Irene and Clare have not spoken for twelve years ever since Clare ran away from home after her father passed away. The overall theme of Passing is about finding one's true identity.
  • Irene's Apartment, Harlem
  • "Clare!"
  • Clare's letter brings back a memory of the last time Irene and Clare talked to each other: It was a sweltering hot day in Chicago. While Irene was shopping for her sons, she rested at the Drayton Hotel, where Clare spotted her. Irene then found out about Clare "passing" for white, even though she was a mulatto. Clare ends up inviting Irene to tea, but she is not interested. Clare's "passing" for white connects to the theme of finding one's true identity because she would rather be white than black.
  • The Negro Welfare League Dance
  • Although Irene made excuses not to go to Clare's tea party, Clare insisted that she come anyway. At Clare's tea party, Irene saw Gertrude, another old friend of hers who was a mulatto, and John Bellew, Clare's white husband who was convinced that Clare was white. In fact, John referred to all black people as "black scrimy devils", which was ironic because Clare was black (132). John Bellew is an important character to the theme because he makes Clare feel pressure to have to be white.
  • Felise's Party
  • Following Clare's letter, Clare appears at Irene's house, disappointed that Irene did not respond back to her. However, Irene and Clare soon become close friends, despite Irene's initial disinterest in Clare. For example, Clare starts to become more friendly with Irene's family, visiting more each day because her husband was on a business trip in Florida.
  • Clare invites herself to the Negro Welfare League Dance because Irene is planning the event. During this time, Irene starts to become suspicious of Clare because she notices that she has been spending alone time with her husband Brian. At the party, Clare converses with a well-known white man, Hugh Wentworth, and Irene becomes more suspicious. Clare's flirtatious actions connect to the theme because it was not normal for someone to talk to both black and white people in this time period.
  • In the end, Clare joins Irene and Brian at their friend Felise's party. At this point, Irene is positive about Clare having an affair with Brian. Fueled by her built up anger and Clare's condescending smile, Irene shoves Clare out a window seventeen stories high, while making it look like Clare fell herself. This action relates to the theme of finding one's true identity because although Clare seemed harmless to Irene, Irene uses her instinct to point out Clare's true vindictiveness, or identity.
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