Passing

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Doorways, Windows, Thresholds Symbol Analysis

Doorways, Windows, Thresholds Symbol Icon

Throughout Passing, Larsen’s characters stand in doorways or linger around thresholds. These doorways and thresholds serve to physically represent the story’s attention to liminality (the idea of being in between two distinct spaces). The theme of passing, itself a form of liminality, echoes the fact that characters often find themselves at the border between rooms, just as they are often on the brink of different identities. Likewise, the window through which Clare ultimately falls/is pushed represents the potential violence of the act of passing or crossing racial boundaries, as Clare falls to her death.

Doorways, Windows, Thresholds Quotes in Passing

The Passing quotes below all refer to the symbol of Doorways, Windows, Thresholds. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Passing, Black Identity, and Race Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Anchor Books edition of Passing published in 2001.
Part 1, Chapter 1 Quotes

This, she reflected, was of a piece with all that she knew of Clare Kendry. Stepping always on the edge of danger. Always aware, but not drawing back or turning aside. Certainly not because of any alarms or feeling of outrage on the part of others.

Related Characters: Clare Kendry / Bellew, Irene Redfield
Related Symbols: Doorways, Windows, Thresholds
Page Number: 172
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote appears in the first few pages of the first chapter of the text. Irene has just received her second letter from Clare, which she recognizes because the type of paper and ink are exactly the same as the letter she received two years before. Irene’s thoughts on the letter help to establish for the reader the relationship between the two women—it’s clearly one of mixed feelings, and Irene’s ambivalence toward Clare will continue throughout the book.

Irene’s descriptions of Clare as “on the edge of danger” foreshadow Clare’s deadly fall from the window at the book’s end. Moreover, the idea that Clare is in danger because she is perched on a threshold between two spaces is a consistent theme throughout the book, since Larsen uses Clare to explore the liminal space of “passing” and being part of both black and white communities. As the book goes on, it becomes clear that the in-between-space Clare occupies, although beneficial in many ways, also takes an enormous toll on her emotionally.

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Doorways, Windows, Thresholds Symbol Timeline in Passing

The timeline below shows where the symbol Doorways, Windows, Thresholds appears in Passing. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 2
Motherhood, Security, and Freedom Theme Icon
Irene sits at a table near the window. When her iced tea arrives, Irene enjoys it while observing the rest of the room.... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 2
Passing, Black Identity, and Race Theme Icon
Humor Theme Icon
...buy a ticket and go anyway. Irene, rising from her chair and walking to the window, insists that she is concerned for Clare’s safety and her own. (full context)
Motherhood, Security, and Freedom Theme Icon
...invites Clare to meet her sons, and together they go upstairs. Clare stands in the doorway and asks the boys if she can come in. Ted says yes, while Junior is... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 4
Sex, Sexuality, and Jealousy Theme Icon
Irene asks if she can open a window, because the room is hot. She does so. Outside the snow has stopped and night... (full context)
Passing, Black Identity, and Race Theme Icon
Sex, Sexuality, and Jealousy Theme Icon
Clare stands by the window, surprisingly composed and smiling slightly. Her smile infuriates Irene, who runs across the room and... (full context)
Passing, Black Identity, and Race Theme Icon
...rushes downstairs. Irene sits down and processes the fact that Clare has fallen out the window. Irene is shocked, and wonders if the others think Clare has fallen, or committed suicide,... (full context)
Passing, Black Identity, and Race Theme Icon
Sex, Sexuality, and Jealousy Theme Icon
...of misadventure,” and telling the group that they should go have a look at the window. (full context)