The Dutchman: A Dramatic Expression Of The Relationship Between Whites And Blacks

1208 words - 5 pages

Amiri Baraka’s The Dutchman would be considered a historical allegory that could be understood as this poetic and dramatic expression of the relationship between whites and blacks throughout the existence of the United States. These patterns of history are symbolically acted out by the two characters Lula and Clay; Lula represents white America and Clay seems to stand for the modern day Uncle Tom, who has over time been shaped by white America and this slave mentality.
The beginning Stage directions seem to form this poem in it of itself. The first line establishes the mythic qualities of the play. “In the flying underbelly of the city. Steaming hot and summer on top, outside. Underground. The subway heaped in modern myth.” (1086) The “flying underbelly” is the metaphor for the Flying Dutchman, which is foreshadowing the almost doomed area. Also Baraka puts a lot of emphasis on the word the underground which seems to foreshadow the below surface intentions of the play right at the beginning. Then the “modern myth” suggests that the play will act as a myth for the patterns of White America.
This mythical quality that resonates throughout the play is further established by the stage properties of Lula. She carries onto the subway these paper books which symbolize the written culture of white America; this written culture certainly resonates throughout the history of blacks and whites. During the beginning of the Jim Crow laws, the blacks had to take literacy tests to be able to vote, so Lula walking in with paper books represents the forced literacy on blacks in the United States. Another stage property that Lula has is her sunglasses which she moves around from time to time. This symbolizes her disguise of friendship, and this friendship moves from hiding and then back in and then at the end just disintegrates, which could represent the roller coaster relationship between whites and blacks. Though the most significant stage property that Baraka uses is the symbol of apples. “Eating apples is always the first step” (1087) the apple symbol represents the temptations of promises that white society offered to blacks, while these promises actually demeaned the dignity of blacks.
Baraka uses the character Lula as a devise to mock Clay as being a supposed Uncle Tom.
You look like you have been trying to grow a bear. That’s exactly what you look like. You look like you live in New Jersey with your parents and are trying to grow a beard. That’s what. You look like you’ve been reading Chinese poetry and drinking lukewarm sugarless tea. You look like death eating a soda cracker. (1087)
Lula seems to be stating here that Clay is the new integrated and socially acceptable black man, unlike the character of an Uncle Tom from Harriet Breecher Stowe, who is trying to ignore his identity that he was born with and manhood. Baraka seems to be mocking Clay for his attempt to become one with the system of whites, because he...

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