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Amiri Baraka's play The Dutchman

Amiri Baraka's one-act play The Dutchman examines racial issues, specifically those contained in a relationship between a white woman and a black man. The play above all portrays these two characters as beings trapped in their roles in a play over which they have no control.

Lula is an aggressive and flirtatious Eve-like character whose sole purpose seems to be to simultaneous mock and seduce her black counterpart Clay. Clay's name suggests a malleability, and Lula is more than willing to mold him to her wishes. Unlike Clay, Lula seems one-dimensional, fixated on possessing Clay sexually and psychologically, and then driven to kill him when he dares begin to stand up for himself at last.

Clay is clearly the character most important to the playwright. Clay is at a crossroads in the play, and Lula plays a part in forcing him to make a decision about himself--will he remain the moderate, middle-class black man, or will he break out of that shell and express himself as an individual and a true black rebel and bold artist.

Lula in that context is not a purely evil seductress, the white woman lusting after the black man only to destroy him in the end when he begins to express the power to which she imagined she was drawn in the first place. Baraka seems to be showing that the white liberal woman attracted to a black man is herself helpless to be anything but the destructive creature she is, but he also seems to suggest that she brings to Clay just the disruption and challenge he needs to begin to unleash in himself the strong being he was meant to be.

The fact that he dies for his efforts has only to do with his unique journey, however, and should not be taken as a statement that all black men will be or have been devoured by lusting white liberal women. If Clay were as liberated at the beginning of the play as he begins to be before she kills him, he would never have been so timid and confused by her as he was in the begin...

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Amiri Baraka's play The Dutchman. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 23:25, February 26, 2017, from