Nella Larsen: Passing, Quicksand, and The Stories

Some People Change Us Forever

Nella Larsen began writing during a time when women, especially black women, did not have a place in society. Her novels consisted of stories re-iterating the lives of the oppressed during the Harlem Renaissance. In her story Passing, Larsen depicts the lives of two women who share much common ground but could not be any more different. These women, Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry, can only succeed through recognition. Whether it be by themselves, each other, or society, Clare and Irene need this recognition to understand their own identities.

When Nella Larsen began this story, she strived to "situate the female at the center of discourses on race and individuality, but in its demystification of the woman of color, [it] insist[ed] that not everything about her can or should be known" (Davis 309). Irene and Clare, after twelve years of separation, have found themselves at the same upper-class, white restaurant. Ironically, both of these women are black, and succeed in 'passing' as white so they can gain entry into this restaurant; they will not let the dictates of society keep them from living as they please. These women, who "shared the experience of what it mean[t] to grow up urban, female, and...

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