Dutchman Summary

Dutchman Summary

Dutchman Summary

Overview: Dutchman
Author of DutchmanAmiri Baraka
Dat piublished1964
GenreOne act play
Literary PeriodPostmodernism
Summary of DutchmanThe play features an emotional interaction between Clay, a 20-year-old African American man, and Lula, a 30-year-old white woman. The play begins with Lula flirting with Clay, leading to an increasingly heated conversation that touches on race, class, and the power dynamics between them. The confrontation ended tragically, demonstrating a critique of the racism and social tensions of the time.
List of main charactersClay, Luna, Passengers on Subway, Conductor, Young Black Man
ThemesRacial Oppression and black identity
SettingA Subway train in New York City in the summer
AnalysisThe play presents a powerful analysis of racial tensions, class conflicts, and identity struggles in 1960s America. The play is rich in symbolism. The subway itself forms a microcosm of society, a cramped space where there is no escape from unpleasant realities. Lula’s predatory behavior toward Clay symbolizes the historical and ongoing exploitation and subjugation of African Americans by white society.

The play “The Dutchman” begins with Clay, a college-educated black man, absentmindedly reading a book on the subway. He looked up and made eye contact with a red-haired white woman outside. When the train left the station, he believed she was left behind and their brief encounter was over. However, she soon left for his house, eating an apple. Lula, a beautiful woman, sits next to Clay and says she saw him examining her. Clay responds with respect and caution, but Lula continues to flirt with him. She hands him an apple from her bag, touches his thigh, and she slowly approaches his crotch. Although he is a little embarrassed, he seems to welcome her advances. Lula begins to speculate about Clay’s life, including where he grew up, what friends he has, and where he takes the subway to. He is shocked that she knows his intimate details, and Clay convinces himself that she must also be friends with his friend Warren. As the conversation progresses, Lula continues to flirt, teasing Clay with racist remarks and insults.

Lula asks Clay to invite her to a party he is going to, and he invites her. She then takes him back to her own apartment and explains that he wants to have sex. Clay noticed that other passengers were boarding the subway, filling the seats around him. He looks restless, but Lula just keeps talking. Seemingly appearing out of nowhere, Lula becomes completely hostile and racist. She repeatedly called him racial slurs and called his grandfather a slave. Lula dances and screams on the train, causing a commotion. As other passengers watch, a drunk man intervenes. Clay tries to take Lula to a seat, but the drunk man resists. Clay punched him in the head and punched Lula twice in the face.

Clay then begins a monologue about his experiences as a black man in the United States. If blacks were allowed to kill whites, he says, they wouldn’t have to sing moving songs or write powerful poems. Your feelings may come out quickly. Clay argues that the only side white people can see of black life is the show that African Americans are putting on them. He says white people like Lula have no idea what the black experience is really like. After thinking about how much easier life would be for black people if he could kill white people, Clay explains that he doesn’t want to do that. He would rather be a fool than a murderer, he says.

A propensity for violence was a hallmark of black nationalism during the final stages of the civil rights movement. Black nationalism advocated separation from white society, economic independence, and the importance of racial pride for African Americans. After the speech, Clay got up to get off the subway. As he bent down to collect his books, Lula stabbed him twice in the heart. Following her orders, the other passengers threw the body out the window and got off at the next stop. Lula remained on the train until another educated black man came on board and she smiled. At the same time, an older black conductor enters the vehicle, recognizes both Lula and the black man, and continues his patrol.

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