Passing by Nella Larsen: Who killedClare Kendry? Passing by Nella Larsen is a famous novel for its ambiguity. Thenovel is introduced with Irene Redfield. Ireneshares a happy life with her husband, Brian an African American doctor, who bothlives in a Harlem town house with their two sons. But her happy life begins toshift when she re-encounters with Clare Kendry a childhood friend, who shehadn’t spoken to for many years.
Clare Kendry, charming, light-skinned and a beautifulwomen shares with Irene how after her father’s death, she fled her black neighborhood,and never looked back ever again. And she is now passing for white a women. Hidingher true identity from everyone, including her racist husband. Clare’sinference with Irene’s life puts Irene in a position where she wants to get ridof Clare. In the ending of the compelling novel, Irene is responsible forClare’s death.
Larsen shows that Irene is held accountable for Clare’s deathbecause Clare abrupt and dreadful presence in Irene’s life causes Irene to haverage, jealously, and complete anger with her, which caused Irene to kill her. As Clareand Irene spend more time together, Irene has a lot of hate and anger towardsClare. Just the thought of Clare made Irene angry, let alone actually beingaround her. “She was thankful for the continued absence ofClare”(Larsen 77).
When Clare wasn’t around, Irene felt so at peace withinherself, and when Clare would return that peace she felt went out the window. Itshows that Clare was a burden Irene her life. Irene went from enjoying herhappy life with her husband and sons, now feeling rejected in her own life. Irenehate for Clare started to unravel, and she wanted to get rid of her. Irene’sCharacters unravels its self and show its true colors we start to see her havesome violent thoughts about Clare.
“If Clare should die! Then– Oh, it was vile!to think, yes, to wish that! Clare Kendry,” (Larsen 7). The over baringthoughts of getting rid of Clare started to become compulsive. Irene wasstarted to become obsessed with the idea of getting rid of her and to get backto her old life. To provide even more evidence thatIrene is responsible for Clare’s death, Irene may have also thought of thedeath of Clare beforehand. Larsen states, “Irene laughed a little, thensaid: It seems dreadfully warm in here.
Mind if I open this windows”(Larsen 89). Irene opens the window that Clare falls out of. But before sheasked if she could open the windows Irene was very quiet and sober at theparty. She may have been already thinking about how she was going kill Clarethat night to get rid of her for good. Ireneexpresses great hatred for Clare.
It was obvious that she hated Clare. But whatLarsen also shows, Irene also holds a deep admiration for Clare”Ah! Surely! They were Negro eyes! Mysterious andconcealing. And set in that ivory face under that bright hair, there was aboutthem something exotic. Yes, Clare Kendry’s loveliness was absolute, beyondchallenge, thanks to those eyes which her grandmother and later her mother andfather had given her.”(Larsen 20) This “admiration” for Claretransformed into a killing desire.
Lookingdeeper at Irene, the deep admiration turns into envy. “It was thatsmile that maddened Irene. She ran across the room, her terror tinged with ferocity,and laid a hand on Clare’s bare arm. One thought possessed her.
She couldn’thave Clare Kendry cast aside by Bellew. (Larsen 111) This makesit clear as day of what really happened with Clare at the end of the novel.Irene’s rage, jealously, and anger droveher to taking such actions that would lead her to killing Clare.