Nella Larsen

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Clare Kendry / Bellew

Clare Kendry is Irene’s childhood acquaintance and John Bellew’s wife. She is a beautiful, charming, wealthy woman who, although born to a black father in a black community, lives in public as a… read analysis of Clare Kendry / Bellew

Irene Redfield

Irene Redfield is Clare’s childhood acquaintance, Brian’s wife, and the protagonist of Passing. The book’s narrative is told in third person from Irene’s perspective. Irene is an uptight, intelligent, well-to-do woman from… read analysis of Irene Redfield

Brian Redfield

Brian is a doctor in New York City and Irene’s husband. Brian is a reserved man who longs to move to Brazil from the United States to escape the country’s dangerous racism. Brian does… read analysis of Brian Redfield

John/Jack Bellew

John or Jack Bellew is Clare’s husband. John, like Clare, is charming and sociable. He is also a white man and a virulent, violent racist. John does not know that Clare has black ancestry… read analysis of John/Jack Bellew

Bob Kendry

Bob Kendry is Clare’s deceased father. Bob is referenced throughout the book, though he never appears in the flesh, having died before the plot takes place. Bob was an alcoholic and a janitor in… read analysis of Bob Kendry
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Hugh Wentworth

Hugh Wentworth is Irene’s friend and Bianca’s husband. Hugh is a white man and a well-known author who takes part in Irene’s social circle and attends the Negro Welfare League dance. Hugh is… read analysis of Hugh Wentworth

Gertrude Martin

Gertrude Martin is a childhood acquaintance of Clare and Irene, the wife of Fred Martin, and the daughter of a butcher. Gertrude was beautiful when she was young, but has apparently not aged… read analysis of Gertrude Martin


Margery is Clare and John Bellew’s daughter. She is a light-skinned young girl who attends school in Switzerland. Larsen never introduces Margery to the reader, but the other characters discuss her frequently. Margery seems… read analysis of Margery

Claude Jones

Claude Jones is a man who grew up with Clare, Gertrude, and Irene on the South Side of Chicago. Though Claude Jones does not appear in person in the book, Clare, Gertrude, and… read analysis of Claude Jones

Felise Freeland

Felise Freeland is a friend of Irene’s and the wife of Dave Freeland. Felise attends Irene’s tea party, and it is at the Freelands’ apartment that Clare falls or is pushed out the… read analysis of Felise Freeland
Minor Characters
Brian Junior (Junior)
Brian Junior, often referred to as “Junior,” is one of Irene and Brian’s sons. Irene worries that Junior is picking up bad ideas about sex at school, but Brian is not concerned. According to Irene, Junior resembles herself in temperament, but looks more like Brian.
Theodore (Ted)
Ted is one of Irene and Brian’s sons. According to Irene, Ted’s temperament is similar to Brian’s. At one point, Ted asks his father why people hate black people, sparking a fight between Irene and Brian.
The housekeeper at Irene’s father’s house in Chicago. Liza answers the phones and helps around the house.
Zulena and Sadie
Zulena and Sadie are Irene’s servants/housekeepers at her home in New York City. They answer the door and phones and help Irene with cooking, party preparation, and cleaning.
Fred Martin
Fred Martin is Gertrude’s white husband and a butcher in Chicago. Larsen never introduces Fred Martin in person in the book, but Irene thinks of him when she sees Gertrude at Clare’s house.
Ralph Hazelton
Ralph is a friend in Irene’s social circle. During a conversation with Irene, Hugh points Ralph out as having especially dark skin. Irene describes Ralph as an excellent conversationalist.
Bianca Wentworth
Bianca Wentworth is Hugh Wentworth’s wife. She is a white woman. Bianca offers to take Clare home after the Negro Welfare League dance.
Dave Freeland
Dave Freeland is a novelist and Felise Freeland’s husband. It is at the Freelands’ apartment that Clare falls or is pushed out the window to her death in the book’s dramatic final scene.