Get help now

Racial Relations in Early 20th Century Essay

Updated August 9, 2022

Download Paper

File format: .pdf, .doc, available for editing

Racial Relations in Early 20th Century Essay essay

Get help to write your own 100% unique essay

Get custom paper

78 writers are online and ready to chat

This essay has been submitted to us by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our writers.

The United States has a long history of racism. Racial prejudice is one of the critical issues that have affected American society since the formation of the nation. Racial bias towards African American has remained a challenge in the country. Racism towards African Americans has been facilitated by laws and policies that have been enacted by the legislator. These include the slave labor and segregation laws. Consequently, there are numerous literary works regarding the racial prejudice in the United States. In this paper, we are going to analyze and compare two pieces of work: Passing by Nella Larsen and Jeanne Crain`s film Pinky.

Crain`s movie and Larsen`s book provide crucial insight into the dynamics of racism in American society in the early 20th century. The peak period for black passing as white was in the 1890s and 1950s. The American society was structured in a way that some rules and regulations stipulated what would make a person be considered white. Segregation laws had made it hard for black people to acquire social and economic security. Consequently, many African American resulted in using dishonest tactics to gain financial security and move up the society. However, some of the blacks fought to uphold high-class standards. Those with fair skin could access the white world, and they began to help other African Americans.

Passing is Larsen`s second and final novel. The narrative was popular with the people in the 1920s when the book was published. It is a unique piece of work that differ other actions relating to racism in the United States. Instead of using a black person as the main protagonist is a light skin African American. Larsen primary objective is to show the calculated deception of white people by black people in early American society, who decide to take the pass as white people because of economic or social reasons (Larsen and Kaplan 10).

The narrative follows the life of two women, Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry, and explores the social and psychological costs of racial passing in the American society. Irene is a light-skin African American woman who often passes as white. On the other hand, Clare and Irene form a friendship which has tragic consequences for both women. Irene has accepted herself as an African American while Clare is not comfortable with this and has been passing as white all her adulthood. They met in Chicago and Irene is enchanted by a blonde woman staring at her. Irene fears the woman might recognize her as an African American, but she comes up to Irene and introduces herself as Clare Bellew, Irene`s childhood friends. The two women start chatting, and Clare invites Irene for tea. Irene is hesitant at first but decides to go after Clare insists. At the tea party, Irene does not like the sentiments of Clare`s husband and friends regarding their dislike for black people.

After that, Irene decides to cut ties with Clare and succeeds for two years. However, Clare continues writing letters and shows up at her house one day. From then, Clare starts to visit the Redfield’s` house and soon Irene starts to notice a relationship forming between her husband and Clare. She is angered by this and begins to plot on how to get Clare out of their lives. At first, Irene contemplates on telling Clare`s husband his wife is not white but chooses not to because it would be going against her people. Eventually, Clare`s husband finds out. At a party, Irene pushes Clare out of a window because she feared that Clare might run off with her husband.

Before we analyze the book, it is essential to look at the inspiration behind Larsen`s narrative. Events taking place in her life inspired Larsen. Walter White was a good friend f Larsen. He had a fair skin color that made him pass as a white. She used this ability to investigate and report about African American life in the United States. Larsen is the daughter of a West Indian man and a Danish woman and grew in a racially diverse family. She has gone through racial prejudice since childhood since her family saw her as an embarrassment.

Pinky, directed by Elia Kazan and produced by Daryl Zanuck, is one of the films regarding passing in history. The movie was released in 1949, the production code era and PCA`s approval. The film was released at a time when the American society allowed moving films to show injustices and discrimination in the country. In 1949, there were at least films regarding racial prejudice in the country. Among these, Daryl Zanuck`s Pinky created the most significant buzz. He was considered a good storyteller who had a way with the audience through his movies. The film primary focus is the racial prejudice in the South just like Deborah Gray White`s Ar`nt I a Woman? Female Slaves in the Plantation South. White`s book also examines the experiences of the women slaves in the south and how they are treated. Both the and White`s book focus on the racial prejudice against black women by following the lives of two characters.

Pinky follow the story of Patricia Johnson, played by Jeanne Crain, a young black woman who comes back to the south from the North to be a nurse. Johnson is black, but she has fair skin that makes her pass for white. Consequently, when she was able to pass as white in the north and fall in love with a white man, Dr. Tom Adams. After returning home, her grandmother, Dicey Johnson, tries to persuade her to stay there and embrace her black nature. Her grandmother makes her act as Miss Em`s nurse, and she reluctantly agrees. At first, Patricia doesn’t like Miss Em but comes to respect and adore her later. Miss Em encourages Pinky to embrace her culture and reject passing. After Miss Em dies, she leaves a will granting all her property and land to Pinky. Miss EM`s evil cousin contests the will in court by alleging that Pinky manipulated Miss Em when she was vulnerable. With the help of local people, Pinky inherits the property and remains in the south. Eventually, Pinky starts a professional nursing school and refuses to marry Tom, stating her place is with her people.

Even though Pinky and Passing deal with the same themes, the narratives are different in some aspect. Passing shows the relationship between two black women who used to pass as white. It goes deeper to depict the nature of the relationship and how it affects their lives in the end. However, Pinky examines the relationship between a white woman and a black woman. It shows how racial prejudice in the South affected the way people interacted. On the one hand, Passing shows racial discrimination among African American while Pinky depicts the fight against racism by both the whites and blacks. In the book, the

The most prominent theme in both the book and the movie is racial passing. In Larsen`s book, the women pass as white and marry white men. Social passing is a vital aspect in society, and Clare and Irene had to conduct themselves in a particular manner that was socially acceptable. In most of the scenes, Irene has to hide her irritation with Clare and during the first tea party (Larsen and Kaplan 10). The characters act according to the racial guidelines such as Irene and her family. Furthermore, the characters` actions and behaviors are restricted and motivated by social norms. Pinky is a passing film. Pinky uses her light-skin color to pass as a white and attend school in the North. She uses her passing and manages to finish nursing school and return home. However, the characters in the film are not limited by racial policies or the usual social decorum. They challenge the status quo in every aspect. Miss Em decides to leave all her belonging to Pinky, a black woman despite protest from the community. Furthermore, Pinky chooses to fight for her inheritance despite the odds of winning.

Another similarity between the book and the film is racial allegiance. The characters in Passing show aspects of ethnic devotion among them. Irene is proud of her African roots and chooses to embrace her culture living a black life. At Clare`s house, she feels the need to defend her blackness when racial sentiments are expressed (Larsen and Kaplan 10). Additionally, Clare also feels the need to connect with her black side, to the extent that she seeks out Irene all the time. The film also shows the power of racial allegiance. The people in the south have strong racial allegiance as demonstrated by Pinky and her grandmother. Miss Em also believes we should be true to our people first.

Racial Relations in Early 20th Century Essay essay

Remember. This is just a sample

You can get your custom paper from our expert writers

Get custom paper

Racial Relations in Early 20th Century Essay. (2022, Aug 09). Retrieved from