June 19, 2012
Dutchman Thematic Analysis
The phrase “racial tension” is a small description of the main theme in Dutchman by Amiri Baraka. While race is a vital part of the underlying messages in the play, it stems to a much broader term. In Dutchman Amiri Baraka attempts to grasp the attention of the African American society. Baraka uses Clay’s character to show readers that complete assimilation into another culture is wrong. He wants to awaken the African American men and women in a predominately Caucasian American culture to subconsciously kill the person that is portrayed by Clay in the play. Not only does Baraka want readers and audience members to kill their inner Clay, but refuse to conform to what is known as the “Average African American man /woman”. The post-thought process that takes place after reading or seeing the play is what triggers the desire to re-evaluate oneself in who they are and how they are portrayed in society.
In the article Dutchman Reconsidered by Thaddeus Martin, it is said that Lula’s whimsical and formless personality is Baraka’s way of saying that the freedom of whites is boundless, and Clays “Puritanical and Victorian” ways shows how blacks are condemned to suffer the furies of that freedom.(Martin 62) For example Clay and Lula’s dialogue in scene one: “Clay: Wow. All these people, so suddenly. They must all come from the same place. Lula:Right. That they do. Clay: Oh? You know about them too? Lula: Oh yeah. About them more than I know about you. Do they frighten you? Clay: Frighten me? Why should they frighten me? Lula: ‘Cause you’re an escaped nigger. Clay: Yeah? Lula: ‘Cause you crawled through the wire and made tracks to my side? Clay: Wire? Lula: Don’t they have wire around plantations? Clay: You must be Jewish. All you can think about is wire. Plantations didn’t have any wire. Plantations were big open whitewashed places like heaven, and everybody on ‘em was grooved to be there. Just strummin’ and hummin’ all day. Lula: Yes, yes.” (Baraka 2754) Lula refers to Clay as an escaped nigger because he crawled through the wire and made tracks to her side. Lula’s reason for saying such a statement shows the common assumption that all black people admire white style. With Clay giving such an apathetic response to Lula’s comment, it is an example of the suggested submissiveness to white authority from an African American. This kind of behavior from Clay is used as a reminder to African Americans to idolize the thoughts and ideas of Caucasians. (Martin 62) There is a power struggle between black and white in Dutchman. When Clay was the more dominant character as an African American man he had a sense of confidence and assurance about himself, but once he is killed, his character is seen as the person you don’t want to be. Baraka’s idea is that if you take on the ways of Clay eventually you will end up someone you’re not, losing your true self. On the contrary when Lula was the more dominant person she had a sense of esteem that overpowered Clays. Her overpowering attitude is to symbolize the dominating cultural presence white people have over blacks. Even with all of the sarcastic comments Clay made as comebacks to Lula, her ingenious way of insulting him still left her with the upper hand. Clays laid back attitude toward Lula is admirable, almost as if he looks up to her wanting to be her. Clay’s admiration for Lula did not begin when she stepped on the train but originated in his upbringing. His yearning to fit into the white culture that seemed to be much better off than he was is what established his appreciation for the white society. (Kumar 277-278) At first he tolerates her comments and attempts to take them lightheartedly, because he has hopes at being intimate with Lula. Willing to listen to a white woman strip him of his pride and manhood just for a night of pleasure, Clay is submitting to the dominant character of Lula. In scene two Lula’s...
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