Dutchman and The Slave

Dutchman and The Slave Summary and Analysis of "Dutchman" Scene 2


Scene 2

Clay’s tie is undone and Lula is clinging to him. A few other people are visible in the car now.

Lula begins to flirtatiously lead Clay through what their time at the party will be like: they’ll look at each from lustily from across the room; they’ll leave and walk through the streets late at night eating apples; they’ll spend time looking at things as they go to her apartment; then they’ll walk up the tenement stairs.

Lula notices someone else come in, and, a little depressed, continues. She will lead him up the stairs, push open the door to her “hovel,” and then the real fun will begin. Clay is a bit embarrassed but asks what she means.

She laughs and says she will take his wet hand and take him inside. He says it’s not wet; she says it’s dry; he then suggests it's cold; she says it’s not cold at all. They’ll sit inside and talk endlessly about things, such as his manhood, which is what they’ve been talking about the whole time.

Clay replies he didn’t know that, and then he notices the other people all of a sudden. He asks her to continue where they were at—her living room, his manhood, talking endlessly. They’ll talk and then they will screw, she states.

Clay nods a little excitedly and nervously that they’ve finally gotten there. Lula continues her narrative by saying that Clay will say her room is as black as Juliet’s tomb. She says Clay will whisper, maybe, that he loves her, but he will be lying. Clay claims he wouldn’t lie about that, but she matter-of-factly replies that he would because it would keep her alive.

This confuses Clay. Lula laughs that this has been her path all along. He doesn’t know what else to say, but she must really be an actress.

He asks for the rest of the story after she says she’s told him almost all. She begins to speak in a more breathless tone as she rummages through her bag. She says lightly that all stories are whole stories, and their whole story is one of change.

As she talks, she begins pulling things out of her bag and tossing them into the aisle. She mocks her own goings-on as she does, but she says Clay is too serious; she doesn’t even know him. He’s probably too serious to be psychoanalyzed.

More people come onto the train as she continues that Clay does change and “things work on you till you hate them” (29). As the people come on, Clay is surprised and thinks they come from the same place. Lula states that they do and says that she knows more about them than he does. She asks if they frighten him. Clay replies no and asks why they would. She says it’s because he is an “escaped nigger” (29) who crawled through the plantation wires to her side.

Clay corrects her and says that plantations did not have wires; they were big and open, and people there just grooved all day—that’s how the blues was born.

Lula nods and repeats his comment about the blues. She begins to make up a song that quickly becomes nonsensical. She rises from her seat and tosses things into the aisle, bumping into people and cursing when she does so. She comes back to Clay crooning about the blues; she asks him to dance and “rub bellies” (30) with her.

Embarrassed but determined to keep his cool, Clay refuses and jokes that there must have been something in the apple. He quotes “Snow White” at her. Lula tries to grab his hands and insists he dance, do the nasty, grind like “your ol’ rag-head mammy” (31).

The more Clay refuses, the more wound-up Lula gets. She tells him to forget his stupid middle-class background and to stop being a “liver-lipped white man” and a “would-be Christian” (31). Clay begs her to sit down and be cool, but she scoffs that he only knows being cool in his white man’s clothes with his white man’s words. She begs him to stand and scream at these people.

Lula turns to them, yells nonsense, and tells Clay to get up: she entreats him not to die the way they want him to. He tries again to restrain her; she calls him an Uncle Tom and dances a little jig. Some of the other passengers are watching, smiling, and laughing. A drunk stands and dances with her.

Clay finally stands and angrily asks her to sit down. He reaches for her to drag her back. The drunk tries to interfere and Clay pushes him away. Lula begins screaming for help. Clay pushes her into her seat and tells her to shut up. Lula cries that he is afraid of black people and his father was an Uncle Tom. Clay slaps her once, then again. He says it’s his turn to talk. He looks at the other passengers, who look away.

He begins, saying that Lula has no sense, no feelings, and that he could murder her now. In fact, he could murder all of them. It takes no effort to kills those “soft idiots” (33) who know nothing but luxury. He yells out into the car, saying for people to leave him alone. Who cares if he is a middle-class fake white man? Let him be it! It’s none of their business and they only know lies. He wears his suit to keep from cutting all their throats.

He looks at Lula and says she is merely a “great liberated whore” (34) who thinks she’s an expert on black people just because she slept with a black man. He excoriates her idea of the “belly rub” and says she has no idea what it is. All these white people claim to like Bessie Smith and they don’t even know what she’s saying to them. They claim to like Charlie Parker and they don’t get that he hates them. If only he could murder her, then white people would understand him. Bessie Smith wouldn’t need her music if she got to kill some white people.

Weary now, he sighs that he’d rather be a fool or insane, without the deaths or hard thoughts. He doesn’t need his people’s madness and they don’t need him to claim them—they can do it themselves. He tells Lula to tell her father to stop preaching to black people. Leave them alone: don’t throw Christian charity, Western rationalism, or the “great intellectual legacy of the white man” (36) at them because they may get it, or pretend to get it, and then even though they’re dressed in nice suits living sober and pious lives, they’ll murder you.

Lula’s voice becomes businesslike as she says she’s had enough. Clay smiles grimly that he’s sure she has, and he grabs his books.

Clay says, “Sorry, baby, I don’t think we could make it” (37). As he reaches over her to get his stuff, she pulls a knife from her bag and stabs him. He slumps over. She says that "sorry" is right, then she turns to the others in the car. She calls for their help in getting him off of her. They do, and then she orders them to throw the body out. They do.

Lula straightens up and gets herself in order. The train stops and the others get out.

Soon, another young black man enters and sits down. She looks at him and he looks back. An old black conductor walks in, doing a subtle soft-shoe. He says hi to the young man, who says hi back. The conductor tips his hat to Lula.


The difference between Lula and Clay as characters is clear by the end of Scene 2. Clay reacts naturally to what Lula does and says to him. He is alternately nervous, excited, confused, aroused, annoyed, and frustrated. He reacts the way the audience expects him to. Lula, however, is an enigma. Her motivations are unknown and her behavior is unpredictable. She seems to be, as Hugh Nelson writes, “conscious of her role in a mythic ritual: she knows in advance how it must end but makes a futile attempt to step out of her role.” She is the archetypal seductress/destroyer, a fairy tale character of sorts (Clay references Snow White; she seems to think she is Juliet; she most certainly is Eve). She is uncanny in how much she seems to know about Clay, some of which she pulls together out of racial stereotype, and some which seems to be from her own mind.

Lula claims that Clay is also playing a role: that of the aspiring middle-class black man, wearing a buttoned-up suit and associating with likeminded intellectual blacks. She tries to get him to admit what he is doing and to embrace his real self, though she still wants him to conform to what her version of him is. She has sexualized him, desiring to turn him into “a Black phallus for her own warped sexuality,” George Levesque writes. She decides he is actually a “black nigger” and a “nigger murderer,” an Uncle Tom and a wannabe-white man. She cannot see him as an individual, which, Linda Zatlin says, “enables her to condone her bigotry and her murder of Clay.”

When he breaks into his rage-filled monologue, we can see that he has, Levesque notes, “escaped into the white world and wrapped himself in it” and is not happy there, but is torn between what to do now. He excoriates Lula and other white people for embracing aspects of black culture without embracing black people. He condemns her implied assertion that she knows black people because she slept with black men. Unfortunately for Clay, though his monologue is powerful, Dianne Weisgram notes, “the theme of erupting black identity is conceived by Jones in terms of a rage so intense that when Clay’s repressed self emerges, he dies in the next instant.”

When Lula dispassionately kills Clay, her motivations are still somewhat ambiguous. It is likely that she has riled Clay up and poked and prodded him into doing something that would give her a reason to kill him, but as Lula is more than simply an individual, her murder of Clay is something larger: “a mythic castrating white devilishness” (Levesque), with Lula as a symbol of white society as a whole. Clay is killed because “the white world will not accept him as a human being—even though he accepts the white man’s values, attire, manner, and lifestyle. He is not accepted as human because the white world, personified by Lula, cannot accept and fears the hatred that seethes in the Black man’s soul.” Weisgram says simply, “The Whites premeditatedly tantalize the Blacks in order to arouse Black aggression and justify White violence.” In Dutchman, “Jones is mirroring the paranoia he sees around him in American society”: the paranoia that Black people are out to get white people and, therefore, white people have to get them first.

Finally, Lula brings in others in the form of subway passengers to collude with her, because “the collusion of society is necessary for the systematic destruction of black men.” They may be incorporeal, but they exhibit hostility towards Clay and support towards Lula. They are bystanders and they are accomplices, as are the audience/readers.