Carolina Day School

Honors Papers 2021-22

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Sullivan 1 Ellsworth Sullivan Ms. Sims Rhetoric and Composition 2 16 April 2021 Nella Larsen's Truth in Writing Nella Larsen confronted and discussed her own experiences by writing Passing, a novel that addresses race and, specifically, the practice of passing. Passing was written during the Harlem Renaissance, a time that encouraged "the emergence of the questions of voice fostered by a black consciousness. African-American writers started to produce a kind of literature that expressed through artistic forms their anxieties, desires, and uncertainties" (Müller). The Harlem Renaissance created the perfect opportunity for Larsen to challenge race thinking and address her own experiences as a multiracial person in the United States because Black voices were being amplified at the time (Müller). Because the style of the novel reads like an internal monologue, it has a distinctly intimate feel. Larsen effectively shares her ideas and experiences and gives a lens into her life through Irene's perspective. And while the book does not explicitly explain Clare's perspective, the vivacity of her character exists because of the clarity in Larsen's understanding of the character's experience. In a way, the novel was Larsen's opportunity to express her truth, proven by the many parallels between her life and the lives of her characters. The characters of Clare Kendry and Irene Redfield in Passing, by Nella Larsen, are remarkably vivid and honest because they are heavily influenced by the author's own experiences with romance, family, and her mixed-race identity. Irene's relationship with her husband Brian financially and socially parallels Nella Larsen's relationship with her ex-husband, Elmer Imes. Imes had his Ph.D. in physics, the

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