What does Clay say is the purpose of art in Dutchman?

Dutchman explores the artistic process in two ways. First, for the play's white female character, Lula, art is an outlet for her rage. Second, it is a defense mechanism for Clay, who represses his anger under a cloak of cool detachment and intellectualism.

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Amiri Baraka's classic one-act play Dutchman, whose title invokes the eternally wandering Flying Dutchman of legend, features a psychological duel between two strangers in a New York subway car: Clay, a young, middle-class African American man and Lula, a beautiful young white woman.

In the play's first scene, Lula probes Clay, alternately questioning, taunting, mocking, and flirting with him in an unhinged manner that leaves her ultimate purpose a mystery. Given the setting, Clay initially tries to ignore and deflect Lula's display with as much decorum as he can muster. But, eventually, he begins to respond, from a mixture of amusement, curiosity, and grudging sexual attraction.

As scene 2 begins, the pair seems to have reached a kind of temporary truce and are moving toward a tentative relationship when Lula again goes on the attack, now more viciously than before. When she turns up the aggression level on the crude racial stereotypes that she had merely touched on earlier, Clay explodes. And when he does, he launches into a tirade which includes his definition of source and purpose of art. He implies that, for an African American, it's the sublimated expression of repressed hatred for whites.

You don't know anything except what's there for you to see. An act. Lies. Device. Not the pure heart, the pumping black heart. You don't ever know that. And I sit here in this buttoned-up suit to keep from cutting all your throats.

Describing Bessie Smith's white fans, he goes on:

They don't even understand Bessie Smith is saying, "Kiss my black ass, kiss my unruly ass,"

If Bessie Smith could have killed some white people, she wouldn't have needed that music.

So too, with Charlie Parker's fans:

Charlie Parker. All the hip white boys scream for Bird. And Bird saying, "Up your ass feeble-minded ofay!" ... Bird would have played not a note of music if he could have walked up to East Sixty-seventh Street and killed the first ten white people he saw.

In the same speech, though, Clay rejects the idea of violence for himself. "Safe with my words, and no deaths, and clean, hard thoughts." But, in expressing what he says is usually repressed, he has already sealed his fate.

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