Set on a New York subway train, Dutchman examines the brief, but fatal, relationship between Clay--a well-dressed, intellectual, young African American man--and Lula, an older, flirtatious, white woman. While Lula suggestively eats an apple, she flirts with Clay, becoming more and more personal as their conversation develops. Lula dominates the interaction, revealing little about herself and acknowledging that she lies frequently. She provokes Clay by challenging his middle-class self image. She seems to be aware of his insecurities and challenges Clay to pretend “that you are free of your own history.”
Clay’s insecurities about race and social status, make him increasingly defensive. As Lula’s taunts become more direct, she goads him into categorizing himself as a negative stereotype of the black male, either the oversexed stud or the cringing Uncle Tom. Finally breaking, Clay launches into a bitter soliloquy on the challenges of being black. The black music and African American culture with which Lula has been stereotyping him are, he believes, repressions of a justified rage that has kept African American people from fighting back and killing white Americans. After admitting, however, that he does not want to kill anyone, he goes to leave. But, before he can, Lula unexpectedly stabs Clay to death and orders the other passengers to throw his body off the train.
Dutchman guide sections