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Lula and the myth of the Flying Dutchman: The play written by Amiri Baraka

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  1. Lula's symbolism as the stereotypical white conceptions of black men.
  2. Lula's subversion of Clay.
  3. Lula's fantasy and Clay.
  4. The title in relation to the myth of the Flying Dutchman.

Amiri Baraka's play, Dutchman, is a deeply powerful one act which reflects the racial and societal tensions of the 1960's in the setting of a moving subway car. The interaction between the two main characters, Lula a sinister, white woman and Clay an African American intellectual, illustrates the overarching oppression of white, patriarchal society. Lula is a characterization of misconceptions, racism and an unwillingness to accept the black community as truly equal. Her only attempts to relate to Clay intimately are centered on conversations concerning his ?manhood? and his supposed attraction to her which she continually inflates. She assumes the worst of Clay and does so in a way that is insulting and bigoted especially with concern to him being any sort of a financially or intellectually successful figure. She refuses to grant him praise and berates all signs his success, as it symbolizes African American progress ? something which she finds humorous and unrealistic. The brief dialogue between Clay and Lula signifies white oppression of African Americans at large and the pent up anger, hatred, and insanity as a result of such subjugation. Clay's diatribe in the end of the play shows his unwillingness to surrender quietly to Lula's jaded notions of white superiority.

[...] Baraka referencing Baudelaire may be in response to Baudelaire's 1860 book, Artificial Paradises, which, in the context of Dutchman, may symbolize 1960's society as a place of revolutionary ideals and movements of equality that gave fuel to the fight against racism but whose results indeed fell short of a racial utopia. Additionally, it seems as though Lula serves as a reminder of this phony paradise with her steady apple eating, an allusion to Eve in the Garden of Eden. Lula operates as a temptress, offering a strange and seemingly sympathetic ear to the struggle against racism yet, as we soon discover, her outspoken ?liberalism' is merely an illusion, as is a society free of prejudice. [...]


[...] The title of the play echoes reference to the seafaring myth of the Flying Dutchman, a ship whose crew is sentenced to roam the seas for eternity. Baraka's first description of the subway is an ?underground heaped in modern emerging the reader into the play's pervasive theme of misconception and deceit all is not what it appears. The New York City subway is a doomed carrier of lost souls just like the ship. Clay is ill fated from the moment he meets eyes with the exuberant but dreadful, white Lula. [...]


[...] After killing Clay, Lula ?takes out a notebook and makes a quick scribbling note? like she is making a tally mark, counting down the lives and souls she's consumed, and as another African American man enters the doomed car, she approaches him in the same manner she did Clay her next victim. (37). Lula is like the Flying Dutchman because she is destined to wander the subway for eternity, consuming the souls of others. She tells Clay that while he may it she will on as [she and asks him could things go on like that forever?? (28). She alludes to her eternal state of being, demoralizing [...]

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