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.