The main themes of The Dutchman are racial oppression and black identity.
Clay’s society, modeled after 20th century American society, is rife with racial oppression. Even though Clay has done nothing wrong and in no way provokes Lula, she persecutes him because of his race, and the other passengers hear her racist remarks. They do nothing to stop the murders. When Lula’s racial harassment becomes too much for Clay to bear, he reveals the hatred blacks have felt toward white society after centuries of racial oppression.
Neurotic patients across the country are fighting to stay sane. And the only thing that would cure your neurosis would be to kill you. ” (Scene II)
After years of racist violence, first through slavery and then through discriminatory laws and social oppression, Clay reveals how exhausting and infuriating it is to be black. Clay argues that the only way to end racism and bigotry is to eliminate racists and those who profit from systemic racism.
The work also touches on the nuances and difficulties of black identity. No matter what Clay accomplishes in life, no matter what he overcomes, white people will always define him only by the color of his skin. She says, Lula hints that he is an academic and that the clothes he wears are only meant to make him look better than he is.
Why are you wearing a jacket and tie in this hot weather? And why are you wearing a jacket and tie like that? Have your people ever burned witches or started a revolution over the price of tea? Oh, those narrow-shouldered clothes come from a tradition that’s supposed to make you feel oppressed. . It’s a three-button suit. What right do I have to wear a three-button suit and a striped tie? Your grandfather was a slave and didn’t go to Harvard. ”(Scene 1)
To Lula (and by extension, to white society as a whole), Clay’s identity as an individual is indistinguishable from his identity as a black man. Instead of being celebrated as a successful black man, he is labeled as an ambitious middle-class white man. In an oppressive white society, Clay’s skin color is the only determining factor. As long as he is black, white society will never see him as anything else.
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