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Old 02-25-2018, 03:40 AM   #106
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First Irene can't even admit the word murder into her head, fiercely allowing only accident or suicide as possibilities--a case of the lady doth protest too much, methinks. And the only reason for Irene to be horrified at the thought of Clare's survival is that Clare would accuse Irene. When she finds out Clare is dead, "Irene struggled against the sob of thankfulness that rose in her throat."
My feelings on the matter exactly!
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Old 02-25-2018, 07:21 AM   #107
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[...] And the only reason for Irene to be horrified at the thought of Clare's survival is that Clare would accuse Irene. When she finds out Clare is dead, "Irene struggled against the sob of thankfulness that rose in her throat."
Given how worked up Irene had become over the assumed affair between Clare and Brian, even if aliens had used a tractor beam to pull Clare out the window, Irene would still have been thankful that Clare was dead. (Alive, and now exposed, Clare was a threat to Irene and Brian.) So, on its own, this line is not convincing as a guilty plea.

Of course, that line is not on its own. An abundance of such hints were given. It is clear that the author wanted to be sure all readers understood this possibility existed - at least in Irene's mind. The only open question is whether the author expected readers to accept this option outright, or not. I saw the option developing as I was reading, but I felt as if Irene was leading me to it and so I doubted it.

I like the thought that this might have been Nella Larsen's private little joke: Irene passing as a murderer for the readers. But perhaps she would just wonder why people like me refused to accept the obvious.
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Old 02-25-2018, 10:22 AM   #108
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Who commits suicide by falling backwards out a window?
Agreed.


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"When she finds out Clare is dead, "Irene struggled against the sob of thankfulness that rose in her throat."
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My feelings on the matter exactly!
Ditto. I think the line I have emboldened tells the whole tale.
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Old 02-25-2018, 12:10 PM   #109
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Given how worked up Irene had become over the assumed affair between Clare and Brian, even if aliens had used a tractor beam to pull Clare out the window, Irene would still have been thankful that Clare was dead. (Alive, and now exposed, Clare was a threat to Irene and Brian.) So, on its own, this line is not convincing as a guilty plea.

Of course, that line is not on its own. An abundance of such hints were given. It is clear that the author wanted to be sure all readers understood this possibility existed - at least in Irene's mind. The only open question is whether the author expected readers to accept this option outright, or not. I saw the option developing as I was reading, but I felt as if Irene was leading me to it and so I doubted it.

I like the thought that this might have been Nella Larsen's private little joke: Irene passing as a murderer for the readers. But perhaps she would just wonder why people like me refused to accept the obvious.
If I ever kill someone, will you please be on my jury?

Per Occam's razor: a simple explanation is generally preferable to a more complex one. Irene had motive, means, and opportunity; Irene also showed consciousness of guilt. Clare did not turn and jump. Clare did not trip. Irene pushed Clare.

Explain one more thing to me, and then I'll give up. Why did Irene run at Clare? Here's the passage:

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It was that [Clare's] smile that maddened Irene. She ran across the room, her terror tinged with ferocity, and laid a hand on Clare’s bare arm. One thought possessed her. She couldn’t have Clare Kendry cast aside by Bellew. She couldn’t have her free.
This is not passive. This is not protective. This is anger and aggression. This is the desire to eliminate a treat.

But if you can offer an alternative explanation, please do.
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Old 02-25-2018, 12:12 PM   #110
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See, I totally don't agree! As I said much earlier in this thread, I don't think that how she died really matters to what the book is about, but since we seem to be arguing about it anyway, rather than the core of the book, my 2p -- Claire always knew that she couldn't go back, and couldn't stay if found out. And always planned for her out. She said so, in so many words. And her out was, in this case, the window. She fell without a sound, knowing it was her escape from what she could not face. (And perhaps, in that, I've mistaken it -- the death is important, because it shows just how desperate Claire's situation was, as was any black woman of the time who was passing for white. All knew, and could never forget, just how irrecoverable it was.)
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Old 02-25-2018, 12:36 PM   #111
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See, I totally don't agree! As I said much earlier in this thread, I don't think that how she died really matters to what the book is about, but since we seem to be arguing about it anyway, rather than the core of the book, my 2p -- Claire always knew that she couldn't go back, and couldn't stay if found out. And always planned for her out. She said so, in so many words. And her out was, in this case, the window. She fell without a sound, knowing it was her escape from what she could not face. (And perhaps, in that, I've mistaken it -- the death is important, because it shows just how desperate Claire's situation was, as was any black woman of the time who was passing for white. All knew, and could never forget, just how irrecoverable it was.)
I could possibly make myself believe suicide if not for Irene's actions and reactions. How do you account for all her angst?
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Old 02-25-2018, 12:41 PM   #112
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Easy. Her angst was just because of who she was, what she thought and how relieved she was at the result. Was she tempted? I would say undoubtedly. Did she do it? Well, the author has carefully not made that clear, but I do not believe she did. But angst? Duh, of course she has massive angst.
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Old 02-25-2018, 01:04 PM   #113
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Easy. Her angst was just because of who she was, what she thought and how relieved she was at the result. Was she tempted? I would say undoubtedly. Did she do it? Well, the author has carefully not made that clear, but I do not believe she did. But angst? Duh, of course she has massive angst.
You think her reactions added up to relief???
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Old 02-25-2018, 01:27 PM   #114
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Absolutely.
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Old 02-25-2018, 04:09 PM   #115
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We must define relief very differently.

I already noted that if I ever kill someone, I want gmw on my jury; now I think I want you to be my defense attorney.
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Old 02-25-2018, 05:17 PM   #116
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I think it is reasonable she would be relieved to know Clare was gone permanently, even if she had nothing to do with it, having perceived her to be such a threat.
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Old 02-25-2018, 05:42 PM   #117
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If I ever kill someone, will you please be on my jury?
As long as we only get to see your testimony.

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Per Occam's razor: a simple explanation is generally preferable to a more complex one.
I don't think this rule can be relied on in fiction.

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Explain one more thing to me, and then I'll give up. Why did Irene run at Clare? Here's the passage: [...]
Irene was ostensibly Clare's friend. It would have been odd not to go to her side. And that quoted paragraph is quite peculiar. We have "terror tinged with ferocity" and declarations like "couldn’t have her free", but we also have "laid a hand on Clare’s bare arm". Say what? I'm so angry with you I'm going to lay my hand on your arm? Scary.

Those sorts of think-one-thing-but-do-or-say-another contradictions exist in a lot of what Irene does throughout the book. I don't like her, I don't trust her, and I don't want to be her friend. But I'm not convinced she tossed Clare out the window. I think Irene would like to think she was capable; she may even believe she was responsible (perhaps Clare did step back, not to commit suicide, but in surprise or to regain personal space, forgetting how close she was to the window), and this would be enough to explain all those careful phrases/thoughts from Irene at the end.

For all that, I am not trying to convince you that Irene didn't do it; I'm just trying to justify why I didn't read it the same way despite the leading hints. I did see them, but I didn't believe them.

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Old 02-25-2018, 05:56 PM   #118
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I think it is reasonable she would be relieved to know Clare was gone permanently, even if she had nothing to do with it, having perceived her to be such a threat.
Sure, but my incredulity is based on your seeing only relief in the jumble of terror, fury, fear, nausea, horror, etc. that Irene feels when Clare goes out the window. (Yes, I know, everyone was presumably horrified and sickened, but Irene's the only one who cowers in the apartment having a meltdown and trying to come up with a rationalization.)
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Old 02-25-2018, 11:45 PM   #119
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As I said much earlier in this thread, I don't think that how she died really matters to what the book is about ...
I'm going back to this comment. What IS the book about, anyway? Larsen doesn't give us a lot of social context or go beyond a small group of relatively privileged, upper-class blacks and a few whites. Irene doesn't care about the outside world, only her little piece of it. She's happy enough with her social sphere and with her life, till Clare shows up. Nor does Clare think about anything but her own desires. They're both cold, manipulative, self-involved women, which is probably why the novel seems to lack emotional resonance; it's hard to care which one will prevail.

If Jack had attacked Clare, they we could say that the novel is about white society turning on a black woman. Or if the black community had rejected Clare's overtures, then we could say that the novel is about the cost of passing. But as it stands? I don't have a clue about what deeper meaning underlies the story.
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Old 02-26-2018, 02:22 AM   #120
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Maybe it’s just about the society Larsen knew, pushed to extremes. We don’t ask if there is a deeper meaning to every book we read, when it is about the world we know. We just accept that world as depicted and then events take place in it, whether murder or romance or adventure or whatever.

I think the things I read into the book, of which I wrote way back at the beginning of the thread, are there perhaps, or not. That includes my thoughts on the stress of trying to live as one sort of person when you feel inside like another sort of person, whether that is to do with skin colour, or gender, or sexual preference or religious belief, or whatever. We each of us bring our own interpretation to any book, which is affected by our background, upbringing, other reading and on and on.

I suppose what I love about reading is that it’s a relationship I have with the author, who is speaking to me, and he or she may say something different to each of us.
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