Dutchman and The Slave

Dutchman and The Slave Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Symbol: Apples

Lula brings apples onto the subway and gives one to Clay, even insisting he take one or more. This is a symbol of temptation, like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It foreshadows what is going to happen to Clay: he is going to lose his innocence and die.

Symbol: Clay's Suit

A suit, especially the one that Lula describes Clay as wearing, is a symbol of class, business, capitalism, and social status. It suggests a solid job, a solid paycheck, and a certain adherence to the rules and norms of society. Lula uses this sartorial symbol to mock Clay's pretensions and to suggest that he is being fake. He is a fake white man, she claims, and she wants to stir up his real spirit.

Symbol: Clay's Name

Clay is a malleable material, capable of being shaped into anything the manipulator desires. Clay in Dutchman is similarly malleable in Lula's hands. She manipulates, seduces, lies to, and twists Clay. She rouses him in many ways and forces him to take on new forms of behavior.

Allegory: Lula's Abuse of Clay

Critic George Levesque writes of Dutchman that Jones "portrays Lula as a kind of white witch with murder on her mind, and most significantly, as a symbol of the white world and part of the greater construct of a racial allegory." What Lula does to Clay—abuse, manipulate, mock, taunt, castrate, and degrade—is what white America has been doing and continues to do to black people. Clay, what with his malleable name, is an Everyman in this respect, and the play can certainly be viewed as an allegory of race relations and power dynamics.

Symbol: Walker's Name

The name Walker Vessels is indicative of several things. First, "Walker" suggests someone who is walking about, not in a fixed position. Walker is constantly looking to find himself and to understand who he is. Second, it references David Walker, a 19th-century black radical writer. "Vessels" suggests not only Denmark Vesey, a 19th-century instigator of a slave riot, but also something empty, something to be filled; this is in line with Walker's anguished search for meaning.