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I would say that Irene's continual conflict is the condition of race and her role in it. Being of mixed heritage and then making the conscious choice to embrace her African- American ethnicity, Irene finds herself committed to one world, and yet not being fully a part of it. Her fascination with Clare's life is in part due to the conflict that Clare lives "the other" of Irene. Both women are challenged by color, victimized by the social construction from which they cannot escape and to which they are inextricably linked. Irene's internal conflict within the domain of race is exacerbated with the fears of her choice's implications when her husband is suspected of having an affair with Clare. It triggers her constant internal conflict because Irene views Clare as the "racial other," a reality in which White and Black become polar opposites. In sensing her husband might be attracted to Clare, it becomes another confirmation of her own state of being about race and how the issue impacts the individual on the level of the subconscious. The preoccupation with race, the allure of Clare's life, and the fears of her husband rejecting her for "the other" all help to drive the constant state of conflict within Irene, one in which happiness and contentment are distant in the world of the contingent.
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