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The two student answers contain some interesting possibilities for how one interprets the title of this play by Amiri Baraka (and the 1966 film version directed by Anthony Harvey). The image of the Dutchman cigar advertisement is clearly symbolic of patriarchal culture, and the American economy built upon tobacco farming....

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The two student answers contain some interesting possibilities for how one interprets the title of this play by Amiri Baraka (and the 1966 film version directed by Anthony Harvey). The image of the Dutchman cigar advertisement is clearly symbolic of patriarchal culture, and the American economy built upon tobacco farming. These plantations utilized African slaves brought on slave ships, so there is a possible reference to institutionalized racism here in this visual element.

The "Flying Dutchman" legend is also referenced here; but I think that Clay, not Lula, represents the Dutchman. If the curse can only be broken by true love, then Clay's attempt to make a sexual-romantic connection with Lula, who flirts openly with him on the train, is what could free him of the curse (which also represents racism and the unequal and brutal treatment of African-Americans in society). But Lula is merely manipulating Clay, and in the end she causes him to be brutalized by portraying herself as a victim attacked by him (even though it is she who provokes him). We know the curse remains unbroken, as we see Lula targeting another young African-American man on the subway train, and presumably the curse will continue to play out. The Dutchman is not one character, but a long ancestral line that exists over centuries, a curse begun by Dutch settlers who captured and transported Africans for slave labor. The curse with roots in this enslavement will continue, the play suggests, as long as racism continues to oppress African-American people.

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