Passing is a short novel that centers on two mixed womenwho reunite in their adult lives and describe how they are trying to “pass” aswhite to society. Clare’s motive for passing is so that she can live aluxurious life with her white husband who is extremely racist.
Whereas Irene istrying to pass when she goes out in society, her husband Brian is fully awareand is a black doctor. Irene and Clare’s childhoods and pasts are vague whichallows there to be room for psychoanalysis, particularly with the characterIrene and her feelings towards Clare. Through psychoanalytical criticism thatoccurs in Larsen’s novel Passing build tension between Irene and Clare and itis argued that Irene pushed Clare from the window that caused her death inorder for Irene to keep her secure life with her husband.When Irene and Clare discuss what it means to pass as awhite woman in society. For Irene, she only tries to pass when it comes tosocial outings, whereas Clare’s whole lifestyle rests on the secret that shepasses as a white woman. Before leaving Clare at the Drayton Irene remarks that”She wished to find out about this hazardous business of “passing,” thisbreaking away from all that was familiar and friendly to take one’s chance inanother environment, not entirely strange, perhaps, but certainly not entirely friendly”(Larsen 15). Although Irene understands what passing entails, her situationdiffers greatly from Clare’s because of what Clare stands to lose if her racisthusband were to do if he found out. Through their conversation of how Clare haseluded her past from her husband in order to pass, it can be inferred thatClare’s rough past was her motivation to live a better life, which in this casemeant a white woman’s life.
After the Drayton meeting Irene tries to distanceherself from Clare, which fails due to the persuasiveness Clare has over Irene.This idea of distancing herself from Clare could be Irene’s subconscious comingthrough to protect her from whatever danger Clare could put Irene in. Althoughas Clare’s present becomes more regular in Irene’s life, the tension builds andspeculations that Clare is having an affair with Brian force Irene to considerwhat would happen if Clare replaced Irene. When Irene runs into Jack Bellewwhile out with her black friend Felise and exposes Clare’s secret, it exposesIrene’s deep desire to remove Clare from her life so that she can keep herstable life with Brian. Clare’s secret was meant to stay hidden in order toprotect her status, though now by chance Irene reveals her secret.
From apsychoanalytic perspective, this is exactly what Irene wanted and as Larsendescribes, “Irene was conscious of a feeling of relieved thankfulness at thethought that she was probably rid of Clare, and without having lifted a fingeror uttered one word” (80). Though at this point Irene is considering thepossible outcomes that could occur between Jack and Clare, would he divorceher? Her inner narration demonstrates that she would clearly do anything tokeep her life, which asks the question would she ultimately kill Clare to keepher life? Ultimately with a psychoanalytic criticism of themystifying moments in Larsen’s novel Passing it gives cause for Irene to killClare as either an act of revenge for something that happened between the twoduring their childhood, or as a means for Irene to keep her unwavering lifewith her family. By examining these moments, it reveals Irene’s true feelingstowards Clare, though it will still be unknown as to what happened between thetwo as children. Psychoanalytic criticism is limited in this sense that it canonly offer a variety of explanations for Irene’s feelings towards Clare andthere can never be a concrete answer.
Although the above ideas give merit tothe argument that Irene caused Clare’s death. When Clare and Irene discuss theact of “passing” there is a sense of jealousy that Irene has for Clare and hermaterial and social gains.