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Bi-racial Identity in Larsens Quicksand and Passing - Book Report/Review Example

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Novels reflect its milieu and reveal the personality of the author. The milieu of the novels "Quicksand" and "Passing" is the Harlem of Renaissance days. The author, Nella Larsen's personality is blatantly present in both the works. Her heroines are not the "tragic mulattoes" of the early African-American fiction…
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Bi-racial Identity in Larsens Quicksand and Passing
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Download file to see previous pages The African American society of the 1920s was a male dominated society within white dominated America. The stereotype of the African-American as slave class and fit only to be servants or capable of menial jobs was deeply entrenched in the American psyche. Larsen had another complicated identity as that of a mulatto. Larsen's novels show the concession that women are forced to make in a male dominated society on ideas of romance, marriage and motherhood due to their helplessness. The repressed female experience and the attempt to make meaning out of such situation results in love less marriages and ensuing tragedies. The conflict in Larsen's heroines is the conflict in the mind between the pristine white woman image and that of wanton hyper sexed African-American. (McDowell, 1968). This conflict is given expression on the dance floor where Helga is unable to neither maintain her reserve nor resist the sexual stirrings excited therein by the jazz music.
Helga Crane, Larsen's fictional character is based on herself. Crane is the daughter of a Danish mother and black father. Her identity, which was peculiar in the sense that she was neither White American nor typical African-American, leaves her with out a place where she really belonged. Larsen mentions the places in Helga's life. In "Naxos", she felt a deep dissatisfaction with the people's belief that segregation was good for them, as they will not have the avariciousness of the whites. In Chicago her white relatives shun her. In Harlem she was ill at ease with the continuous discussion of "race problem". In Copenhagen she is treated as a highly desirable exotic creature and finally deep South she becomes disheartened at the blind adherence of people to religion. Just as places fail her, people also fail her. She has stints with a prestigious Southern Negro man whom she does not love. She turns down the proposal of a famous European artist and ends marrying a southern preacher who gives her sexual fulfillment, pregnancies and suffering.
Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry the characters of "Passing", are of mixed heritage like Larsen. Clare's complexion is so light that she succeeds in marrying a white man. Her tragedy lay in her light skin. "As a light-skinned mulatto, she can opt out of the black working class by passing for white".
The man who know nothing of her mixed heritage calls her endearingly "Nig". Irene marries a black doctor. These child hood friends later meet and a series events end up in the death of Clare by falling out of the window. Irene comes to know the clandestine relation between her husband and Clare. This ultimately ends up in divulging to Clare's husband that his wife is of mixed ancestry. Larsen ends the novel on a note of ambiguity; did Irene push Clare out of the window or did Clare kill herself.
Larsen's heroines are racially confused females who struggle with their biracial identities in an America sharply divided by the line of color. The heroines are ill at ease with their African-American identity as it is the identity of the poor and slave class. Instead of accepting the reality of the race, they try to escape from it, and the attempt to escape from the inferior identity leaves them with no identity resulting in the complicated loveless marriages that they are forced to endure.
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Calloway Morrow Licia. "Black Family (Dys)Function in ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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