Dutchman and The Slave

Dutchman and The Slave Imagery

The Disposal of Clay's Body

Clay's body is thrown out of the subway car by the people who witnessed Lula stab him. The imagery is haunting: these people are alarmingly willing to participate in dumping a man's body, neither questioning Lula nor holding her accountable. Their presence is important in a ritualistic way as well, for they are the public part of Lula's destruction of Clay, the counterpart to her private seduction and manipulation.

The Subway

The setting of Dutchman is a subway car. All of the action is taking place beneath the surface of the city, thus it isn't "seen" in broad daylight. The imagery suggests this is the atrocious underbelly of the community in the city and of the soul that lies within each of us. It is a call to search out what is beneath, to make visible what is invisible, and to hold ourselves and others accountable.


The Slave is punctuated by random explosions and flashes of light, which serve as deeply unsettling imagery of unrest, danger, and fragmentation. In this punctuating imagery, Jones is able to suggest racial division: critic Owen E. Brady says that "these special effects create a rhythm of racial revolution, making visible the basic disorder of the American macrocosm."

Walker as a Slave

Jones chooses to depict Walker as a slave in the prologue to connect the contemporary events of the play with the long legacy of slavery. Walker as a slave is nondescript, anonymous, and feeble. He is full of suppressed rage but also resignation. He is "running down, growing anxiously less articulate, more 'field hand' sounding, blankly lyrical; slowly shuffles around" (45). At the end of the play, he is "now the old man" again, a potent image of Walker's acceptance of his identity, his sacrificial nature, and his commitment to addressing the wrongs of history.