Dutchman Questions and Answers
by Amiri Baraka

Start Your Free Trial

How is Dutchman by Amiri Baraka a political piece of drama?

Expert Answers info

Concepcion Cobbs eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2019

write136 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Science

Dutchman by Amiri Baraka is a powerful literary work. It is simple in setting but complex in its meaning. The story takes place in a subway car in New York City, and it features only two characters. Clay is an African American man who is described as well dressed and intellectual. Lula is a white woman who is a little older than Clay and who is depicted initially as flirtatious.

Lula interrupts Clay's reading, and the two begin a bantering conversation. However, Lula drives the conversation, making it more and more confrontational as the story progresses. Dutchman ends when Lula unexpectedly kills Clay by stabbing him to death.

The story is political because of its focus on race, social status, and masculinity in American culture. Lula challenges Clay's identity, and he becomes defensive about who he is. At one point, Lula asks Clay, "What right do you have to be wearing a three-button suit and striped tie? . . . Your grandfather was a slave, he didn't go to Harvard."

When questioned about the meaning of her work, Baraka says that Clay's defenses for how he sees himself and Lula's antagonistic taunting are about how difficult it is to be a black man in the United States.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

gbeatty eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2007

write2,654 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Science

It is a political drama for the racial attitudes expressed in the play, the violence, and the sexual politics. Remember that this was first produced in 1964, when racial tensions were rising and the Women's Liberation movement just really getting underway. To have race-based insults, or even comments, flung like Lula does is highly political. Likewise, the specific charges from Lula, and the desperate attempts on Clay's part to find a way to relate to her, and to have a stable psyche, or even a coherent identity, was political at the time. This is very much about the role of the African-American in white society.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial