As seen in short story ” The Bluest Eye” by Morrison, Claudia’sdislike of the white beauty standards becomes a genuine obsession with, in thiscase, Shirley Temple. The same could be interrupted from Claire’s behavior andthought process. Clare’s longing for her cultural roots has transformed into acraving to integrate back into the African American community.
As in ” TheBluest Eye ” Shirley Temple equals white beauty the same metaphor is inPassing. Irene equals Clare’s desire to integrate into back into black culture.Although, she wants to integrate back, there is no mention of giving upanything either. She is hoping she will be able to find a place in bothcommunities. However, she refers to this hope as ” a constant ache ” suggestingthat 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 notwant to uphold her appearance as a white woman along with the privileges thatcome along with it during this time. The physical appearance of a white womangrants you certain rights that no others would receive.
According to Dyer, Whitesstand as the dominant race; consequently, social, political, economic standardsare based off of them. Naturally, if you are born white you start on top of thelatter. This is why no matter how hard the pull is torejoin her roots. She realizes she is one of the few people who are born blackbut able to “pass” as white.
That is why she will not give up the advantage shehas 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’twhite.
This is a tremendous “free” advantage given that you have no controlover what ethnicity your parents will be. That is why Clare is so hesitant togive up her white identity even at the cost of happiness. Nonetheless as she starts to mingle back intoblack society while upholding her white life, Irene becomes jealous or at thevery least envious of Clare’s ability to maintain both lifestyles.
Through out the book there are various instances when Irene shows herbitterness towards Clare. While talking about switch between races, Clare asksIrene has she ever thought about adopting “passing” full time into her life.Irene answer in a defensive disgust while trying to remain prideful, “no.
whyshould I? And so disdainful was her voice and manner that Clare’s face flushedand 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 asense of her roots by publicly denouncing white society, although she uses thevery same society to uplift her social-economically, while Irene has too muchracial pride that prohibits her from adopting the “passing lifestyle”permanently.
Towardsthe conclusion of the story, Irene has an internal problem that stems fromClare almost achieving what she would like to do herself. Since she cannot fuseboth identities into one way of life, her frustration focuses at her racialparadox. 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 asunacceptable. Thus resulting in Irene needing to keep her true wants suppressed,wanting to be apart of white society, while clinging to black societysuperficially. 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 becrushed. A person or the race…Irene Redfield wished, for the first time in herlife, that she had not been born a Negro. For the first time she suffered andrebelled because she was unable to disregard the burden of race…it was abrutality, and undeserved.”(Larsen 69). Unfortunately, Irene’s wants areunattainable in terms of integrating an identity that highlights the positivesfrom both black and white society. This racial dichotomy is the core of herinternal struggle and jealousness of Clare.
Asthe jealousy grows in addition to her suspicion of potential affair between herhusband and Clare, Larsen uses Irene’s cigarette to foreshadow: “Irene finishedher cigarette and threw it out, watching the tiny spark drop slowly down to thewhite ground below”(Larsen 78). The spark is supposed to represent Clare. Asthe “spark” hits the “white ground” below it will fizzle out like Clare willfizzle out of Irene’s life if something were to happen to her. When Clare actuallydoes suddenly “fall” out the window, Irene thinks: “Gone! The soft white face,the bright hair, the disturbing scarlet mouth, the dreaming eyes, the caressingsmile, the whole torturing loveliness that had been Clare Kendry. The beautythat had torn at Irene’s placid life. Gone! (Larsen 80).
As Clare became a bigger threat to Irene life so did Irenerealization that she would never experience the same lifestyle she already hadnor leading a “double life” that Clare was close to achieving. The dangerouspart is that Irene is willing to suck-up her pride accepting that both of thosethings will not happen to her but will not let her “friend” by any meansnecessary. Clare’s eventual death highlights the difficulty of achieving the “double standard” life. Irene’s double consciousness (being black with a whitemindset), and disgust with this racial structure also exemplify her own failureof leading a “double standard” life as well. Claredesire to integrated back in black culture, while maintaining her whiteappearance and Irene’s suppressed desired to pass are different paths to lead aachieve the double life. However, both women find out achieving a doubleidentity is unachievable. In an ideal world Clare and Irene want the familiarityof their culture with the benefits “passing” gives you.
The women are stuck inbetween this racial dichotomy that force them to long for a “double life” butare 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 nearlyimpossible. The author uses both characters to challenge this dichotomyalthough she writes the book with the given notion that is unachievable