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Passing Study Guide & Plot Summary

This Study Guide consists of approximately 24 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Passing.
This section contains 616 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
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Passing Summary & Study Guide Description

Passing Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Passing by Nella Larsen.

Plot Summary

Passing is the second novel by Harlem Renaissance writer Nella Larsen. This novel follows the relationship between two childhood friends, one who is proud of her racial heritage and one who has passed into the white world to marry for wealth. Irene Redfield runs into Clare Kendry Bellew on the roof of the Drayton Hotel in Chicago. At first Irene does not recognize the blond beauty, but as they begin to speak Irene realizes exactly who this beautiful woman is. Irene wants nothing to do with Clare, but finds herself pulled in by her charms. Two years later, Irene realizes she is not the only one who is susceptible to Clare's charms. Passing is a unique novel about race, love and human nature.

Irene Redfield is in Chicago to visit her father while her children are away at summer camp. Overwhelmed by the intense heat, Irene hails a cab and allows the driver to take her to Drayton Hotel where she hopes to enjoy a cool wind along with her iced tea. While sitting at her table, Irene becomes aware of a beautiful blond woman at another table who has taken an unusual interest in her. At first Irene worries that the woman has recognized that Irene is black, but Irene decides this is not possible. Finally the blond woman comes to Irene's table and calls Irene by name, causing Irene to recognize that this blond woman is her childhood friend, Clare Kendry.

The two old friends sit and talk for hours, both ignoring the fact that Clare is clearly passing in the white world. Clare invites Irene to tea the following Tuesday and Irene agrees so that she will not hurt Clare's feelings. However, Irene vows not to go. When Tuesday comes around, Clare calls so many times that Irene feels she must go have tea with her. When Irene arrives at Clare's hotel, she finds her entertaining another childhood friend who also married a white man. The women chat for a time and then Clare's husband arrives. Almost instantly Irene realizes the man is highly prejudiced against black people. Clare is outraged by his behavior, but she does not say anything in order to protect Clare.

Two years pass and then Irene gets another letter from Clare. After discussing it with her husband, Irene decides not to answer the letter. However, a few months later Clare appears on her doorstep. Clare convinces Irene to invite her to a dance she has helped to organize. After the dance, Clare becomes a regular guest at the Redfield home. In December, shortly before Christmas, Irene becomes aware that her husband has become inappropriately close to Clare. Irene hides the fact that she knows, however, feeling as though she should be able to deal with the pain. However, Irene begins trying to come up with ideas of how to rid herself of Clare. Irene thinks briefly that she might tell Clare's husband that Clare is really black, but she decides this would not be a good idea because it would be like betraying her entire race.

One after while shopping, Irene runs into Clare's husband while shopping with a black friend. Irene ignores him and walks away, but finds herself unable to tell either her husband or Clare what occurred. That night, Irene decides she can handle her husband having an affair as long as he continues to come home to her. However, when Clare's husband arrives at a party that the Redfields are attending with Clare, Irene panics. Irene cannot allow Clare's husband to divorce her because then Clare would be free to be with Irene's husband. Without thinking, Irene pushes Clare out of a window.

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This section contains 616 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
Purchase our Passing Study Guide
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Passing from BookRags and Gale's For Students Series. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.