Racial Passing: A Comparative Reading of Jessie Fauset's Plum Bun and Nella Larsen's Passing and Quicksand

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GRIN Verlag, 2007 - 102 pages
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Thesis (M.A.) from the year 2006 in the subject American Studies - Literature, grade: 1,0, Dresden Technical University, 36 entries in the bibliography, language: English, abstract: In the following, I would like to give a brief abstract of my thesis. Chiefly, I want to explore three major novels of the Harlem Renaissance - Nella Larsen's Quicksand (1928) and Passing (1929) as well as Jessie Fauset's Plum Bun (1929). As all of them deal with racial passing, this issue will be the topic of the first part in order to provide an insight into the matter. The main focus will be on black-to-white passing, which is primarily a cultural phenomenon of the United States. After a definition of the term with the help of several basic typologies, I would like to proceed to concomitants like secrecy, the question of guilt and the white people's view on passing. Subsequently, the passer ought to be the focus of closer examination, followed by an exploration of laws and folk beliefs evolving around the mulatto as the typical passing figure. After this theoretical embedding, I will take a closer look at passing in literature including an analysis of the emergence of the phenomenon as a literary genre. Additionally, the passing figure in literature, the "tragic mulatto," is to be investigated. Concluding, a chapter on other forms of passing shall be added for the sake of completeness. In the second part, these theoretical cognitions are supposed to be employed to find an approach to the novels that are going to be examined with regard to the matters that evolve around passing, i.e. the secrecy involved, the return home and the tragic death of the heroine. Juda Bennett's list of similarities among passing novels is supposed to provide a framework here. Afterwards, other forms of passing depicted in the novels will come to the fore including an examination of racism in connection with sexism.

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Foreword Abstract
Passing in Literature
Other Forms of Passing

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Page 47 - The essence of life seemed bodily motion. And when suddenly the music died, she dragged herself back to the present with a conscious effort; and a shameful certainty that not only had she been in the jungle, but that she had enjoyed it, began to taunt her. She hardened her determination to get away. She wasn't, she told herself, a jungle creature.
Page 35 - passing.' We disapprove of it and at the same time condone it. It excites our contempt and yet we rather admire it. We shy away from it with an odd kind of revulsion, but we protect it.
Page 36 - Irene reminded herself that she ought immediately to go. But she didn't move. The truth was, she was curious. There were things that she wanted to ask Clare Kendry. She wished to find out about this hazardous business of "passing," this breaking away from all that was familiar and friendly to take one's chances in another environment, not entirely strange, perhaps, but certainly not entirely friendly. What, for example, one did about background, how one accounted for oneself. And how one felt when...
Page 75 - And then it happened. He stooped and kissed her, a long kiss, holding her close. She fought against him with all her might. Then, strangely, all power seemed to ebb away, and a long-hidden, half-understood desire welled up in her with the suddenness of a dream.
Page 47 - She didn't, in spite of her racial markings, belong to these dark segregated people. She was different. She felt it. It wasn't merely a matter of color. It was something broader, deeper, that made folk kin.
Page 59 - Pore Mis' Green, wid all dem small chilluns at once. She suah do hab it ha'd. An' she don' nebah complains an' frets no mo'e. Jes' trus' in de Lawd lak de Good Book say. Mighty sweet lil' 'oman too." Helga didn't bother much about the preparations for the coming child. Actually and metaphorically she bowed her head before God, trusting in Him to see her through. Secretly she was glad that she had not to worry about herself or anything. It was a relief to be able to put the entire responsibility on...
Page 14 - The woman felt that the story, dealing as it did with race intermingling and possibly adultery, was beyond definite discussion. For among black people, as among white people, it is tacitly understood that these things are not mentioned — and therefore they do not exist.
Page 75 - ... Helga agreed in a thin little voice, "I'm back." The truth was that she had been back for some hours. Purposely she had lain silent and still, wanting to linger forever in that serene haven, that effortless calm where nothing was expected of her. There she could watch the figures of the past drift by. There was her mother, whom she had loved from a distance and finally so scornfully blamed, who appeared as she had always remembered her, unbelievably beautiful, young, and remote. Robert Anderson,...

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