The Representation of Racial Tension in Baraka’s Dutchman

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In the 1964 play Dutchman by Amiri Baraka, formally known as Le Roi Jones, an enigma of themes and racial conflicts are blatantly exemplified within the short duration of the play. Baraka attacks the issue of racial stereotype symbolically through the relationship of the play’s only subjects, Lula and Clay. Baraka uses theatricality and dynamic characters as a metaphor to portray an honest representation of racist stereotypes in America through both physical and psychological acts of discrimination. Dutchman shows Clay, an innocent African-American man enraged after he is tormented by the representation of an insane, illogical and explicit ideal of white supremacy known as Lula. Their encounter turns from sexual to lethal as the two along with others are all confined inside of one urban subway cart. Baraka uses character traits, symbolism and metaphor to exhibit the legacy of racial tension in America. The subway cart setting is an example of American symbolism. The eerie underground cart is an element of the play’s title; the flying Dutchman’s haunted ship, however, it can also be seen as the illustration of American society. The subway cart is a representation of an enclosed space where people are forced to interact. Regardless of race, gender and social class the urban subway cart is an area of social stimulation. Passengers often enter and ride anonymously, we see in the list of characters “Riders of Coach, white and black” are included in the dynamics of the subway cart set. It is a tight and confined space trapped with a random sampling of people at any given time. Baraka uses this setting as the perfect environment for two strangers to openly interact. A perfectly natural place to meet someone new, like Clay and Lula. A ... ... middle of paper ... ... generations. Racial tensions have resulted in tragedies; Clay’s murder in the end of the play is a symbolic portrayal of an innocent man attacked for the color of his skin and nothing more. The art of theatre attacks the audience to consider these social issues. At the end of Dutchman the audience is left uncomfortable, shocked and left to piece together the role of Lula, Clay and the flying Dutchman subway cart are metaphors for problems greater than the play’s conflict. Works Cited Baraka, Amiri. Dutchman. New York, New York: Marrow, 1964. Print. 766-774 Du Bois, W.E.B. The Souls of Black Folk. Rockville, Maryland: Arc Manor, 2008. Print. Kumar, Nita N. "The Logic of Retribution: Amiri Baraka's 'Dutchman.'" African American Review 37.2/3 (2003): 271-279. JSTOR. Web. 2 May 2012. .

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