The first part of the novel Passing by Larsen explores how the Irene and Clare, who were childhood friends, reunite. It is from their skin color and behaviors that Larsen comes up with the title Passing. The title is symbolic since later in the book the two ladies try to pass as Americans and African Americas depending on the circumstance and benefits it presents.
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More so, Irene’s friend Clare has perfected the art of “passing” as a white lady. She does this so as to have the things she did not have during her childhood. This lifestyle although dangerous, intrigues Irene who all along wanted a safer and secure life, but after reuniting with Clare she starts to fancy the art of passing.
Furthermore, the initial letter that Clare sends to Irene after so many years requesting that they meet is symbolic. The letter evokes strong emotions in Irene prompting her to reveal Clare’s childhood life and how she used to be cold and selfish. Irene recalls all this with contempt and wonders how such a person who was capable of transforming to the now warm, loving and caring Clare. Thus, Larsen uses the letter to reveal Clare’s background as well as their relationship during childhood.
Another symbolism used in the novel exploits the desires of Clare when she openly tells Irene that she wished she had the type of life she lived when they were growing up. Thus, it is her lack of that life that made her to live the passing life, and it is correct to argue that Irene’s presence in the novel and her successful lifestyle is used to symbolize the unconscious desires of Clare.