As seen in short story ” The Bluest Eye” by Morrison, Claudia’s
dislike of the white beauty standards becomes a genuine obsession with, in this
case, Shirley Temple. The same could be interrupted from Claire’s behavior and
thought process. Clare’s longing for her cultural roots has transformed into a
craving to integrate back into the African American community. As in ” The
Bluest Eye ” Shirley Temple equals white beauty the same metaphor is in
Passing. Irene equals Clare’s desire to integrate into back into black culture.
Although, she wants to integrate back, there is no mention of giving up
anything either. She is hoping she will be able to find a place in both
communities. However, she refers to this hope as ” a constant ache ” suggesting
that leading a double life is much more difficult than she believed.
Integrating back into her roots wouldn’t be such a tough issue if she did not
want to uphold her appearance as a white woman along with the privileges that
come along with it during this time. The physical appearance of a white woman
grants you certain rights that no others would receive. According to Dyer, Whites
stand as the dominant race; consequently, social, political, economic standards
are based off of them. Naturally, if you are born white you start on top of the
latter. This is why no matter how hard the pull is to
rejoin her roots. She realizes she is one of the few people who are born black
but able to “pass” as white. That is why she will not give up the advantage she
has worked to achieve throughout her life. According to Rottenberg, the social structure pins whites against black, in which white always win.
In essence, being white equates to a position of power over anyone who isn’t
white. This is a tremendous “free” advantage given that you have no control
over what ethnicity your parents will be. That is why Clare is so hesitant to
give up her white identity even at the cost of happiness. Nonetheless as she starts to mingle back into
black society while upholding her white life, Irene becomes jealous or at the
very least envious of Clare’s ability to maintain both lifestyles.
Through out the book there are various instances when Irene shows her
bitterness towards Clare. While talking about switch between races, Clare asks
Irene has she ever thought about adopting “passing” full time into her life.
Irene answer in a defensive disgust while trying to remain prideful, “no. why
should I? And so disdainful was her voice and manner that Clare’s face flushed
and her eyes glinted. You see, Clare, I’ve got everything I want. Except,
perhaps, a little more money” (Larsen 20). Clare has the ability to maintain a
sense of her roots by publicly denouncing white society, although she uses the
very same society to uplift her social-economically, while Irene has too much
racial pride that prohibits her from adopting the “passing lifestyle”
the conclusion of the story, Irene has an internal problem that stems from
Clare almost achieving what she would like to do herself. Since she cannot fuse
both identities into one way of life, her frustration focuses at her racial
paradox. She is a black woman that identifies with white society and standards.
This line of thought of sharing multiple racial identities is taboo as well as
unacceptable. Thus resulting in Irene needing to keep her true wants suppressed,
wanting to be apart of white society, while clinging to black society
superficially. Irene states “She was caught between two allegiances, different,
yet the same. Herself. Her race. Race! The thing that bound and suffocated her.
Whatever steps she took, or if she took none at all, something would be
crushed. A person or the race…Irene Redfield wished, for the first time in her
life, that she had not been born a Negro. For the first time she suffered and
rebelled because she was unable to disregard the burden of race…it was a
brutality, and undeserved.”(Larsen 69). Unfortunately, Irene’s wants are
unattainable in terms of integrating an identity that highlights the positives
from both black and white society. This racial dichotomy is the core of her
internal struggle and jealousness of Clare.
the jealousy grows in addition to her suspicion of potential affair between her
husband and Clare, Larsen uses Irene’s cigarette to foreshadow: “Irene finished
her cigarette and threw it out, watching the tiny spark drop slowly down to the
white ground below”(Larsen 78). The spark is supposed to represent Clare. As
the “spark” hits the “white ground” below it will fizzle out like Clare will
fizzle out of Irene’s life if something were to happen to her. When Clare actually
does suddenly “fall” out the window, Irene thinks: “Gone! The soft white face,
the bright hair, the disturbing scarlet mouth, the dreaming eyes, the caressing
smile, the whole torturing loveliness that had been Clare Kendry. The beauty
that had torn at Irene’s placid life. Gone! (Larsen 80). As Clare became a bigger threat to Irene life so did Irene
realization that she would never experience the same lifestyle she already had
nor leading a “double life” that Clare was close to achieving. The dangerous
part is that Irene is willing to suck-up her pride accepting that both of those
things will not happen to her but will not let her “friend” by any means
necessary. Clare’s eventual death highlights the difficulty of achieving the ”
double standard” life. Irene’s double consciousness (being black with a white
mindset), and disgust with this racial structure also exemplify her own failure
of leading a “double standard” life as well.
desire to integrated back in black culture, while maintaining her white
appearance and Irene’s suppressed desired to pass are different paths to lead a
achieve the double life. However, both women find out achieving a double
identity is unachievable. In an ideal world Clare and Irene want the familiarity
of their culture with the benefits “passing” gives you. The women are stuck in
between this racial dichotomy that force them to long for a “double life” but
are unsure about how to achieve it in a way that is accepted by society.
However, due to the social structure of society their dream is nearly
impossible. The author uses both characters to challenge this dichotomy
although she writes the book with the given notion that is unachievable