is the reader meant to be sympathetic or critical of the narrator trying to pass as white
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I think it i easy to feel sympathy for a man with an identity crises. Like several other novels that came to relevance during the Harlem Renaissance, Johnson deals with the theme of "passing". Passing is not as straightforward it sounds. [Autobiography] deals with the impermeability of racial boundaries in turn-of-the-century American society, when a person with any amount of African American blood was considered "colored". Passing could be intentional or unintentional, and the narrator embodies almost every permutation of the experience. When he finally decides to fully pass as white at the end of the novel, he has decided to suppress a major part of his identity, thus destroying his chances to achieve true contentedness and self-awareness. The narrator does not come across as a person deserving of condemnation rather than our sympathy and even our gratitude for he allows us to see into our own prejudices and stereotypes.