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                                      Passing by Nella Larsen: Who killed
Clare Kendry?

               Passing by Nella Larsen is a famous novel for its ambiguity. The
novel is introduced with Irene Redfield. Irene
shares a happy life with her husband, Brian an African American doctor, who both
lives in a Harlem town house with their two sons. But her happy life begins to
shift when she re-encounters with Clare Kendry a childhood friend, who she
hadn’t spoken to for many years. Clare Kendry, charming, light-skinned and a beautiful
women 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. Hiding
her true identity from everyone, including her racist husband. Clare’s
inference with Irene’s life puts Irene in a position where she wants to get rid
of Clare. In the ending of the compelling novel, Irene is responsible for
Clare’s death. Larsen shows that Irene is held accountable for Clare’s death
because Clare abrupt and dreadful presence in Irene’s life causes Irene to have
rage, jealously, and complete anger with her, which caused Irene to kill her.

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             As Clare
and Irene spend more time together, Irene has a lot of hate and anger towards
Clare. Just the thought of Clare made Irene angry, let alone actually being
around her. “She was thankful for the continued absence of
Clare”(Larsen 77). When Clare wasn’t around, Irene felt so at peace within
herself, and when Clare would return that peace she felt went out the window. It
shows that Clare was a burden Irene her life. Irene went from enjoying her
happy life with her husband and sons, now feeling rejected in her own life. Irene
hate for Clare started to unravel, and she wanted to get rid of her. Irene’s
Characters unravels its self and show its true colors we start to see her have
some 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 baring
thoughts of getting rid of Clare started to become compulsive. Irene was
started to become obsessed with the idea of getting rid of her and to get back
to her old life.

            To provide even more evidence that
Irene is responsible for Clare’s death, Irene may have also thought of the
death of Clare beforehand. Larsen states, “Irene laughed a little, then
said: 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 she
asked if she could open the windows Irene was very quiet and sober at the
party. She may have been already thinking about how she was going kill Clare
that night to get rid of her for good.

expresses great hatred for Clare. It was obvious that she hated Clare. But what
Larsen also shows, Irene also holds a deep admiration for Clare”Ah! Surely! They were Negro eyes! Mysterious and
concealing. And set in that ivory face under that bright hair, there was about
them something exotic. Yes, Clare Kendry’s loveliness was absolute, beyond
challenge, thanks to those eyes which her grandmother and later her mother and
father had given her.”(Larsen 20) This “admiration” for Clare
transformed into a killing desire.

deeper at Irene, the deep admiration turns into envy. “It was that
smile 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’t
have Clare Kendry cast aside by Bellew. (Larsen 111) This makes
it clear as day of what really happened with Clare at the end of the novel.
Irene’s rage, jealously, and anger drove
her to taking such actions that would lead her to killing Clare.


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