Essay about Language in Amiri Baraka's The Dutchman

Essay about Language in Amiri Baraka's The Dutchman

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Language in Amiri Baraka's The Dutchman


The popular saying "actions speak louder than words" is upended in Amiri Baraka's play, The Dutchman, where words, or in this case language, speaks louder than the actions of the characters, Lula and Clay. Language governs the characters and their actions, and is therefore a prominent feature in shaping the identities of Lula and Clay. In the play, Baraka conveys the significance of Lula and Clay being enabled to change their identities by a simple change in the type of language they employ. Though it may seem that the characters have dominion over the language and can shape their own identities by a simple change in the language they utilize, through repetition of the concurring motifs of lying, myths, pretending to be someone else, and diction, Baraka conveys the idea that language superintends the characters' actions and identities, and is used as an escape from reality for Lula, a white woman, and as a means of survival for Clay, a black man.

How language shapes the identity of the characters Lula and Clay is prominent in the repeating theme of lying in the play. Lula claims that she "lie[s] all the time" (27). By lying, she is trying to shape an identity for herself. But what she fails to realize is that instead of her lies putting her in control of creating an identity for herself, the language she employs by lying forms her identity. Therefore the language of lies, as an outside force, is the shaper of her identity, and not the fact that she chooses to lie. Because Lula is constantly lying throughout the play, she becomes a static character. Her identity as a static character is therefore once again shaped by the fact that she lies all the time. By lying Lula ...


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...ct more black. Instead when Clay breaks out of the fake white man identity, he assumes the identity of an intelligent artist. This is reflected in the diction he uses and the intellectually deep insight he gives on his thoughts of breaking out, where he states that if the black man were to break out, he would become like the white man, and do what the white man does: kill. Clay does break out, even if for a short time, but as he falls back into his "identity" Lula decides she doesn't like him when he breaks out and kills him.

Through the use of the idea of lying, myths, pretending to be someone else, and diction, Baraka is able to convey that language makes the identity of a person, and controls how that person acts. It is therefore evident that words speak louder than actions, because it is the words that make a person, and shape the acts of a person.

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