Dutchman and The Slave

Dutchman and The Slave Quotes and Analysis

"Get this man off me! Hurry, now! Open the door and throw his body out. And all of you get off at the next stop."

Lula, 37

Lula says this to the passengers of the subway car she is aboard. She's just stabbed and killed Clay and now demands that everyone around her help to dispose of his body, which they do, and leave, which they do. This horrific willingness to appease her demands reveals how complicit we all are who simply want to "stay out of it."

"Hey, you still haven't told me how you know so much about me."

Clay, 12

Clay says this to Lula, who has been very accurate in guessing the type of person he is, even down to deep-seated secrets from his childhood. Lula's assumptions about black people are what lead her to "know" so much about him. She doesn't actually know him: she is finding out if he is the stereotype, and once she knows, she uses it to utterly manipulate him, eventually taking his life.

"Charlie Parker? Charlie Parker. All the hip white boys scream for Bird. And Bird saying, 'Up your ass, feebleminded ofay! Up your ass.' And they sit there talking about the tortured genius of Charlie Parker. Bird would've played not a note of music if he just walked up to East Sixty-seventh Street and killed the first ten white people he saw. Not a note! And I'm the great would-be poet."

Clay, 35

Clay articulates that black people have transferred their rage into art, pouring everything into their music, painting, and poetry. If they had not, who knows where the would have found catharsis? Art is their substitute for killing; if Bessie Smith and Charlie Parker had only gotten to kill a few white people, they wouldn't need to make music. Critic Nita Kumar calls this a passionate (but simplistic, in her opinion) conflation of "art, rage, and reason."

"I told you I always lie. I'm nothing, honey, and don't you ever forget it."

Lula, 19

Lula is a mysterious woman, to say the least. She vacillates between opinions, lies, behaves irrationally and dramatically, and refuses to say anything real about herself. Her identity is indeterminate and slippery. She is all performance and spectacle. As Nita Kumar explains, "Clay's efforts to locate and fix her image are rebuffed in a weary kind of manner." She is happy to fashion an identity for him—one based on stereotype, guesswork, and manipulation—but her own is mutable and unknowable. She is a perfect example of postmodernist, post-structuralist assertions of the self as no longer a "stable and determinate locus of meaning" but a "field of indeterminacy and interpretive freedom."

"They'll murder you, and have very rational explanations. Very much like your own. They'll cut your throats, and drag you out to the edge of your cities so the flesh can fall away from your bones, in sanitary isolation."

Clay, 36

Clay rages at Lula as an individual, then at white people in general for their ignorance, falseness, and racism. At the end of his monologue, he suggests that there will be a reckoning: one day, they will rise up against white people and do the killing themselves. Unlike Walker in The Slave, though, Clay will not do the killing himself: he backs away, choosing to leave the scene rather than put his words into action. Critic Nita Kumar concludes, "Lula's power of speech is undercut by Clay's discourse about the power of action, which is further undercut by Lula's demonstration of real power through action" and "this rhetoric of murder is instantly contrasted in the play with Lula's act of conducting a swift and real murder."

"Wow, you're pretty strong, you know? Whatta you, a lady wrestler or something?"

Clay, 12

Clay marvels at Lula's strength here, which is simply one more unsettling way in which she isn't what she seems. As soon she started talking to Clay, it became clear she was a lot bolder than one might have thought given her pretty, slight appearance. She then began to say things about him that surprised him in their accuracy, and then grabbed his wrist, leading him to comment the phrase above. She moves from emotion to emotion, lying, guessing, mocking, flirting. Unlike Clay, who reacts naturally to these odd occurrences, Lula seems uncanny and unreal. Her emotional and physical dexterity and strength suggest that she is a bigger force than a mere individual; she is, perhaps, white society as a whole.

"A liberal education, and a long history of concern for minorities and charitable organizations can do that for you."

Walker, 52

Grace and Easley think they're the "right" type of white people. They're liberal, educated, and part of the movement for change. Grace married a black man and had two daughters by him. The couple prides themselves on not being racist. However, they stop short of actually understanding what black people need and want. They excoriate the violence undertaken by the black liberation movement because it unsettles their lives. They prefer their "lifeless cocoon of pretended intellectual achievement" (76), as Walker calls it. They do not want their dominance altered, so they have to fashion Walker as "the nigger murderer" archetype and deem him crazy.

"Gracie, are you just repeating your faggot husband?"

Walker, 54

Jones is often (justifiably) criticized for homophobic and misogynistic undertones in his work. With Lula in Dutchman, it is somewhat easier to contextualize that misogyny because Lula is not really an individual woman, or even all women: she functions as a stand-in for white society as a whole. Here in The Slave, Walker frequently insults Easley, calling him a variety of homophobic slurs and insinuating he cannot have sex with Grace like he (Walker) can. There is no evidence that Easley is gay, and it seems as if Walker is taking something that was considered taboo in society as a whole, and particularly within the black community, and levying it at Easley as a way to demonstrate how much he hates him. Simply put, it's reprehensible and inexcusable.

"Walker, you're an insane man. You're an insane man. An insane man..."

Grace, 81

Both Grace and Easley levy insults at Walker, often calling him "insane," "crazy," or "out of [his] mind," claiming that he is an "arrogant maniac." This serves their aims, however, for rather than seeing Walker's grievances as legitimate, it is easier to write him off as messed-up. His "insanity" threatens them and they don't want to deal with it. Owen Brady writes, "they dismiss the reality of Walker's personal vision of America because they have not experienced it." Of course, even if Walker does sound inarticulate or frenzied at moments, this is because he can't really communicate with them—they are too far away. He sighs, "there's nothing I can do to make you understand me...now" (49). The only way to make it through this world, Walker realizes, is this: "being out of your mind is the only thing that qualifies you to stay alive."

A sudden aggravated silence, and then there is a child heard crying and screaming as loud as it can.

Stage directions, The Slave, 88

The child's cry at the end of the play is an important detail. It comes after Walker insists to Grace that the girls are dead and stumbles away. There are a few interpretations of this. First, Walker is abnegating his responsibilities; even though he has toppled the "false king" of Easley, he is walking away from responsibility and his chance to make himself "immortal" through his progeny. He remains "tormented and sterile," as Linda Zatlin states. Second, the child's cry may be a birth pang that suggests that even if Walker has given up, the children themselves are the future. Of black and white heritage, the two girls will do what their parents could not. However, this birth-in-death is still ambiguous and full of violence and peril, so it is unclear just how positive the ending of the play really is.