Justification of Dutchman as a Tragedy

The play Dutchman by Imamu Baraka portrays the actions of two characters in a subway car, Lulu a symbol for typical white society, and Clay a young black man, trying to find out where he fits in that society. Through the actions of the two characters the author demonstrates how black people are often abused by white society and left abused for the expression of their unpopular opinions. Clay concludes a tragic hero in Arthur Miller's definition after "laying down his life . . . to secure . . . his sense of personal dignity." Clay is murdered for his violent response to Lulu who accuses him of being a sellout, a "middle class fake white man," and simply a "dirty white man." Drawing strong parallels to the way blacks have historically been treated by whites, Clay first attempts to inform Lula about his life. As Clay reminds Lula, "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest one of all? Snow White, baby, and don't you forget it."

Lula represents a naive white temptress, white society attempting to assimilate Clay into her culture. Clay attempts to point out the benefits of his world as well. When Lula refers to the slave plantation as prisons, Clay points out that there were never bars around the plantations, and that they were "whitewashed places like heaven." In the end when Lula finally becomes fed up with Clay's reluctance to conform to her standards her true feelings are revealed. "Let me go! You black son of a bitch," she screams when Clay tries to make Lula understand where he is coming from. In the end the white subway responds to his outburst by murdering him for taking his stand. Together they drag his body out of the train, protecting the guilty Lulu solely because of her race. Clay becomes a tragic hero as a result of his unchangeable environment.

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