"She was caught between two allegiances, different yet the same. Race! The thing that bound and suffocated her. Whatever steps she took, or if she took none at all, something would be crushed. A person or the race, Clare, herself or the race"(Larsen 172). In the novel Passing by Nella Larson, the author uses this quote to show the struggles of how Irene Redfield is caught between her husband cheating on her with an old childhood friend, Clare Kendry, who has lied to the world about not being a Negro, her race and her herself. In this situation Irene does not have very many options but she is going to have to make an extremely hard decision between herself, her race and her loyalty to her childhood friend Clare. Irene also knows that no matter what decision she makes, somebody is going to get hurt. .
The first option that Irene has to choose from is to make decision based on what is best for her. From the novel we know that Clare is having an affair with Irene's husband and Irene knows. If Irene were going to make a decision completely for herself she would make the decision to tell Clare's husband that she is a colored woman and ruin her marriage. Clare's husband, John, does not know of Clare's past and married her thinking that she was a white woman. "'I draw the line at that. No niggers in my family. Never have been and never will be" (132). This is very dangerous for Clare because since her husband doesn't know she is a Negro. Clare is also cheating on him with the Irene's husband, and this puts Irene into a situation where she could easily ruin Clare's relationship and get Clare out of her life. This is a hard decision for Irene because she has a unique connection with Clare. Irene and Clare are very similar to each other and they both come from the same place and are the same race, but are both have the ability to appear white around other guests. The deference between them though is that Irene dedicated her life to her race, while Clare ran away to create a falsified image of her to the world.