Dutchman and The Slave

Dutchman and The Slave Literary Elements





Setting and Context

Subway Car, New York City, 1964; Grace and Easley's home in a city, 1964

Narrator and Point of View

Both plays have third-person limited perspectives, consistent with theatrical convention.

Tone and Mood


Tone: patronizing, contemptuous, seductive, mocking, sardonic, confused, angry

Mood: suspenseful, anxious, threatening

The Slave:

Tone: blunt, contemptuous, pedantic, scornful

Mood: tragic, vengeful, foreboding, frustrated

Protagonist and Antagonist

The Dutchman, the protagonist is Clay and the antagonist is Lula. In The Slave, the protagonist is Walker and the antagonists are Grace and Easley (to an extent).

Major Conflict

Dutchman: Will Lula break Clay down through her seduction and manipulation, and if so, what will she do to him?

The Slave: Will Walker force Easley and Grace to acknowledge him, and will he kill them?


Dutchman: Clay lashes out in anger at Lula, telling her he could kill her. He decides not to; she stabs and kills him instead.

The Slave: Easley attacks Walker to try to get the gun, but Walker shoots him.


Dutchman: The apple that Lula gives Clay foreshadows his eventual "fall"

The Slave: N/A.




1. Baudelaire, the famous French poet
2. Averell Harriman, a white American politician and diplomat
3. "Juliet's tomb": Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
4. You must be Jewish. All you can think about is wire" (29): the Holocaust's concentration camps
5. Snow White, the Disney cartoon/fairy tale
6. Uncle Tom, the character from Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin"
7. Bessie Smith, a famous black blues singer
8. Charlie Parker, a famous black saxophonist

The Slave:
1. Yeats, or William Butler Yeats, the famous Irish poet
2. Carl Sandburg, modernist poet
3. Bigger Thomas, the main character of Richard Wright's "Native Son"
4. Othello, Desdemona, and Iago: all characters in Shakespeare's "Othello"


See separate "Imagery" section of this ClassicNote.


Critic Linda Zatlin states, "Walker alternatively identifies himself with and desperately tries to extricate himself from everything white, including those parts of himself he perceives as permanently tainted by white values."


Dutchman: The young man at the end of the play parallels Clay at the beginning, and it is suggested that his fate will be the same as Clay's.

The Slave: Walker is supposed to parallel the slave at the beginning because he is not free.


Dutchman: "a loud scream of the actual train" (4).

The Slave: N/A.

Use of Dramatic Devices

1. Clay's soliloquy at the end of the play is an expression of the deep-seated pain that lies within him that he doesn't allow to come out in his day to day life, for fear of him killing someone.
2. The people on the subway are a sort of cruel, silent chorus.

The Slave:
1. Easley's death is an instance of poetic justice.
2. The situation with the children evokes pathos.

Both plays have: props, scenes, scenery, rising action, staging, and unity of time/place/action (all within 24 hours).