Nella Larsen: Passing, Quicksand, and The Stories

Finding Home in Passing and The House on Mango Street College

Both Clare, from Passing, by Nella Larson, and Esperanza, the protagonist of The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros, seek to find a figurative ‘home’ in society, a place where they are accepted by those around them and free to express themselves. However, both characters feel that the roles they are inherently fettered into are holding them back; Clare cannot achieve economic and social freedom in the black community, and Esperanza cannot achieve true acceptance while being ashamed of her cultural heritage. By comparing the way these characters employ the seductive powers of female sexuality, and exploring their differences in their attempts to reintegrate themselves into society, one can see that true freedom, what they were after all along, can only be achieved in the mind first, and not in a different community, or on a different street. Both characters come to realize that the false sense of triumph achieved by ‘passing’ or by flirting with men is a double-edged sword; while advancing them toward what they feel is liberation, true freedom eludes them further. When faced with pivotal circumstances at the end, Clare finds ultimate liberation in death. Esperanza however, finds herself in her ability to write and tell...

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