Dutchman Summary & Study Guide

Amiri Baraka

Dutchman

  • 25-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 2 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a professional writer with a Master's in Dramaturgy & Criticism
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Dutchman Summary & Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 25-page guide for “Dutchman” by Amiri Baraka includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 2 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Racism and the Ongoing System of Bigotry and Racial Oppression and Black Male Identity.

Plot Summary

Dutchman is a one-act play written by LeRoi Jones (later known as Amiri Baraka), which first debuted Off-Broadway in 1964, during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. The play focuses on Clay, a 20-year-old African-American man wearing a suit and tie, and Lula, a 30-year-old white woman, who meet on a subway train in New York City during the summer.

The play begins with Clay sitting on the subway, reading and looking idly out the window. He sees Lula staring at him through the subway window at a station, and the two smile at each other. Lula boards the subway car and sits down next to Clay. She tells him that she saw him checking her out through the window and boarded the train to look for him.

The two start talking and flirting: Lula offers Clay an apple, which he accepts.

Lula becomes quiet and eventually starts making racial-based remarks to Clay. She oscillates between flirting and racially taunting him, until Clay can no longer tolerate her antics. He slaps her, sheds his buttoned-up exterior, and releases his pent-up rage in a long speech that describes the racial oppression he faces as a black man.

After his speech, Clay goes to leave the train. As he reaches over Lula to get his belongings, she stabs him in the chest with a knife; she orders the train passengers—who previously joined in her antics and readily comply—to throw his body off the train and get off at the next station. Lula is alone on the train until another young black man carrying books boards the train. Lula stares at him until he drops his books into his lap, suggesting he will become her next victim. 

Dutchman explores clear themes of racism and racial oppression, along with black male identity, as Lula criticizes Clay for daring to seem “white” rather than conforming to black stereotypes. Its title is a reference to the legend of the Flying Dutchman, while Lula’s offering of an apple to Clay makes a clear allusion to the Adam and Eve story.

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