"All indication of tears had gone from her eyes and voice, and Irene Redfield, searching her face, had an offended feeling that behind what was now only an ivory mask* lurked a scornful amusement" (186)
The metaphor that compares Clare Kendry's face to a mask is very important to the message of the whole book. It not only relates to the fact that Clare is playing a part in that she is "passing" as a white woman, but it also implies that she is unreliable, even with people who know her secret. No one knows for sure what Clare is thinking beneath her facade. Clare uses her displays of emotion to manipulate others and Irene, at this moment, suspects that Clare is doing the same to her. This little scene sets up everyting that progresses within their relationship.
2. Third Person, Limited Point-of-View
"Irene decided that she wouldn't, after all, say anything to him about Clare Kendry. She had, she told herself, no inclination to speak of a person who held so low an opinion of her loyalty, or her discretion. And certainly she had no desire or Intention of making the slightest effort about Tuesday. Nor any other day for that matter.
She was through with Clare Kendry." (195)
The entire story is being told from a Third Person, Limited Point-of-View. This becomes important, because the only character who the audience truly knows is Irene. The third person narrator only gives glimpses into what Irene thinks and feels about what is going on around her, but the audience can not gain a window into the thoughts and motivations of Clare. This is important because it enables the audience to experience Irene's feelings of discomfort and eventual distrust of Clare's motives. It makes Irene easier to sympathize with, but it also raises questions of whether Irene is justified in her suspicions or if she is merely being paranoid.
3. Symbolism: Red
"So, in spite of certain unpleasantness and possible danger, she had taken the money to buy the material for that pathetic little red frock." (172)
The very first image the audience receives of Clare Kendry is through a flashback that Irene recalls of Clare sewing together a dress made of red material. At various points through the rest of the novel, the color red is used in descriptions of Clare - mostly in reference to her lips.
The color red implies danger, desire, temptation and sin, all things that can be associated with the character of Clare Kendry. Her choice to live as a white woman has constantly put her in a state of danger, but it is the apparent threat Clare poses as a source of temptation that ultimately seals her fate. Irene fears that if Clare reclaims her life as an African American woman, Clare will then turn her attention to Irene's husband Brian. Clare desires what she does not have and will risk any danger to achieve it. For the entire novel, the color red echoes with Clare as a result.
4. Foil: Irene Redfield & Clare Kendry/Bellew
"It may be, 'Rene dear, it may just be, that, after all, your way may be the wiser and infinitely happier one. I'm not sure just now. At least not so sure as I have been." (208)
Novel, Passing, pivotally hinges on the relationship between Irene Redfield and her foil, Clare. The obvious difference between them is the fact that Irene chooses to live as an African American woman and Clare chooses to live as a white woman. The dangers of choosing the latter path becomes more apparent as the novel progresses and we watch as Clare seems to become more desparate and Irene becomes more resentful of Clare. By examining these extremely disparate lives side by side, it brings home that there are sacrifices on both sides. As Clare puts it, `"I'm beginning to believe...that no one is ever completely happy, or free, or safe."' (227) Each woman has issues to deal with and neither has an easier path. It would be harder to appreciate the difficulties facing these women if the foil was not present to emphasize the differences.
5. Internal Conflict (Man vs. Self)
`But she mustn't, she warned herself, think of that. She was too tired, and too shocked. And, indeed, both were true. She was utterly weary, and she was violently staggered.
But her thoughts reeled on. If only she could be as free of mental as she was of bodily vigour; could only put from her memory the vision of her hand on Clare's arm!
"It was an accident, a terrible accident," she muttered fiercely. "It was!"' (276)
It is Irene's internal conflict over her own insecurities that influences her actions in the course of the novel. Through the story, Irene indirectly blames Clare for her lack of satisfaction, but Irene is actually the source of her own unhappiness. In an attempt to avoid responsibility for the shape her life is in, she blames others, like her husband Brian or Clare. Irene tries to control the situation, but is unable to exercise complete control. In the end, she cannot even take responsibility for her final action, trying to convince herself that it was an accident and that she had not actually pushed Clare out of the window. Clare becomes a representative of Irene's frustration over being unable to achieve her personal desires and maintain control over her husband and her life. By killing Clare, Irene tries to regain personal control, but it only spurs further internal turmoil.
1. Allusion: Pygmalion
“She is immensely interested in him [Higgins]. She has even secret mischievous moments in which she wishes she could get him alone, on a desert island, away from all ties and with nobody else in the world to consider, and just drag him off his pedestal and see him making love like any common man. We all have private imaginations of that sort. But when it comes to business, to the life that she really leads as distinguished from the life of dreams and fancies, she likes Freddy and she likes the Colonel; and she does not like Higgins and Mr. Doolittle. Galatea never does quite like Pygmalion: his relation to her is too godlike to be altogether agreeable” (Pygmalion, Sequel).
Both the title and in places in the Preface and Sequel sections of the play, Shaw makes allusions to the Greek myth, Pygmalion. This allusion calls to mind that Pygmalion as a sculptor formed Galatea to be the perfect woman. The connection to the play is that Henry Higgins, similarly to the sculptor, tries to "sculpt" and turn Eliza into his concept of the perfect woman. Unlike the original Pygmalion, the play brings into play the concept that the woman is a thinking, feeling being with her own opinions and would not necessarily cooperate with the sculptor's designs. It adds a complexity to the play that is not present in the myth. As the above quote implies, the woman does not appreciate a man thinking for her and mirrors the changing male/female dynamic that arose during the Victorian Era.
3. Dialectical Language
4. Dramatic Foil (Higgins/Pickering)
5. Conflict (Man vs. Society)