In Amiri Baraka’s play Dutchman, the white and black passengers symbolize the inability of the individual to make substantial difference in race relations in the United States through their inaction and complicity. Baraka is telling the audience that this inaction and complicity perpetuates the strained and unequal race relations, and it afflicts both white and black individuals.
Baraka’s play is rife with allusion and symbolism, and it can be examined as an allegory. He was also in the process of divorcing his Jewish wife at the time of writing, so aspects of the larger racial landscape in America may have been affecting him and his wife.
The Flying Dutchman is a legendary ghost ship which sails endlessly with a crew that cannot escape, much like the white and black subways riders who are unable to escape the contentious race relations. The play’s title also connects to the Dutch slave ships which brought chained Africans to America, which of course started the racial dynamics in...
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