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Summary Of The Lion And The Jewel By Wole Soyinka
Clash of Cultures
The play is about the clash between the Yoruba tradition and western civilization. On one hand, Baroka, the village chief, represents the tradition, as he is the custodian of the traditional customs of the Yoruba community.
On the other hand, Lakunle, a village teacher, represents western civilization, which he cherishes and tries to teach and establish in his community. He desires to turn the village into a modern city by constructing a road linking the village to town. He is against Baroka’s action of preventing a railroad bridge that should have been built through the village.
This clash of culture is also noticeable in the clash of interest between these two characters. Both of them want to marry Sidi, the village beauty. Lakunle opposes tradition by wanting to marry her without bride price. Baroka, on the other hand, is willing to adhere to the tradition by paying the bride price. Sidi’s decision to marry Baroka is seen as the triumph of tradition over western culture.
Sidi is portrayed as a woman of value and honour (the jewel), not only because of her beauty but also because of her virginity. When she loses her virginity to the old Baroka, she has the option of getting married to Lakunle. But she eventually rejects Lakunle’s proposal and marries Baroka because it is against the custom to marry another man except for the one who had deflowered her.
The theme of vanity is portrayed through Sidi. She becomes arrogant and vainglorious because of her beauty. Her vainglory is fueled by her photos appearing in a magazine; her rising popularity deepens her belief in her own superiority. Her vainglory and arrogance make her believe she could make a mockery of the Bale, and that was when she lost her virginity and lost her pride.
Women’s Domination by Men: The play raises the issue of women being dominated and oppressed by men in traditional African societies. The tradition permits men to marry as many wives as they desire, whereas the same tradition restricts women to only one husband.
The fact that Baroka can send his wife Sadiku to persuade Sidi to become his third wife shows how women are viewed and treated by men in this society. The episode in the play where Baroka’s youngest wife (Ailatu) is plucking his armpit hair is used to dramatize a situation where women become objects of entertainment for their husbands.
The theme of betrayal is portrayed in the play through the actions of various characters. Baroka is betrayed by his eldest wife Sadiku who reveals his secret of his being impotent to Sidi. However, her action worked according to the plan of the old fox himself who wanted to use that as a trap to bring Sidi close enough for his purpose.
Lakunle was eventually betrayed by Sidi whom he had shown so much love and whom he had made up his mind to marry even after she had been defiled by another man. It is also obvious that the actions of people like Lakunle in abandoning the tradition of their people are seen as a betrayal by the villagers.
Sidi is also betrayed by Lakunle in a way; after all, he refused to pay her bride price, which meant that if she went ahead to marry him she (Sidi) would be seen as a useless woman who had thrown her honour away as far as the custom of her people was concerned.
THE TITLE AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE
The lion in the play refers to Baroka. The lion is seen as the king of other animals in the jungle; it hunts other animals for its meals. Like a lion, Baroka occupies a position of authority as the village head, and he uses his power and influence to hunt for beautiful women and bring them in as wives.
Sidi represents the jewel in the play because of her stunning beauty. Her unparalleled beauty brings her to the limelight when a magazine publishes her photos to showcase her beauty. Thus, she becomes a centre of attraction.
Baroka’s interest in her then goes beyond a love for a woman; he desires to bring her under his authority and therefore bring her popularity and rising influence in the village under his control. The rivalry between Baroka and Lankule symbolizes the clash between traditional and modern cultures. Sidi’s decision to marry Baroka instead of Lakunle is a triumph of tradition over Western culture.
THE SETTING OF THE PLAY
The play is set in a Nigerian village called Ilujinle. Ilujinle is used to depict a sociocultural environment where polygamy is the prevailing custom and women are made to accept it as a normal situation. This explains why Baroka can send Sadiku (his own wife) to persuade Side to become his new wife.
Ilujinle gives a picture of a male-dominated society where a man is pictured as the lion and women as seen as his prey. It is a society where women are their husband’s object of entertainment.
This is evident in the scene where Ailatu is performing her role of plucking her husband Baroka’s armpit hair. In this setting, we find that teaching is going on but lesson delivery is undermined by the male teacher’s tendency to abandon his class to go after a beautiful girl.
OVERVIEW OF THE PLAY
The play depicts the conflict between modernization and tradition through the characters of Baroka and Lakunle. Lakunle supports modern values, but Baroka defends traditional values. The play’s central theme is this clash of cultures: the conflict is between traditional Nigerian Yoruba culture and the Western culture introduced by the colonial masters.
The play is a comedy and centres on four major characters: Baroka (the elderly chief of Illunjire), Lankule (the young headmaster of a primary school), Sidi (the most beautiful girl in the village) and Sadiku (the eldest wife of Baroka).
Baroka is portrayed as a cunning fox; Lankule is depicted as an arrogant teacher; Sidi is characterized as an arrogant, egotistical or vainglorious young village girl, and Sadiku is presented as a simple-minded elderly woman.
Baroka is the traditional chief of the village, Ilujinle. His wives are Sadiku (the eldest wife whom he inherited from his father’s Okiki), and Ailatu. He represents the lion in the play, and his prey happens to be the village jewel, Sidi, whom he desires to bring in as another wife.
His love for Sidi is the basis of his conflict with Lakunle who also loves Sidi and wants her hand in marriage. His cunning and manipulative abilities enable him to deflower Sidi when she visits him for the purpose of making a jest of him for feeling important.
Like the most beautiful girl in the village, she represents the jewel in the play. Her beauty makes her the object of conflict between Baroka and Lakunle who both love her and want to marry her.
She insists that Lakunle must pay her bride price if she wants to marry her. Meanwhile, she has been deflowered by Baroka during her visit for the purpose of mocking the man. She is an arrogant woman, whose vainglory is fueled by her photos appearing in a magazine.
This makes her think she is superior even to the village chief, whom she discovers is interested in her beauty as well. Her pride and overconfidence become the weakness that the old lion (Baroka) capitalizes on to hunt her down and deflower her.
This is Baroka’s youngest wife. She receives Baroka’s respect and attention as the youngest wife, and this gives her the privilege to “pluck armpit.”
This is Baroka’s eldest wife, whom he inherited from his father, Okiki. Sadiku is sent by her husband to seduce Sidi and persuade her to become Baroka’s new wife.
Lakunle is a poor village teacher who shows love for Sidi and wants to marry her. His idea of civilization or modernization makes him refuse to pay Sidi’s bride price, which leads to his inability to marry her.
As a teacher, his negligence of duty is evident in his tendency to abandon his class in order to woo Sidi. His conflict with Baroka is based on the fact that both of them are competing for Sidi’s love and attention.
This is Baroka’s father who married Sadiku but was unable to deflower her. Baroka eventually inherits Sadiku from his father, and she becomes his first wife.
The conflict between Baroka and Lakunle arises from the desire to win Sidi’s love, as each of them wants to marry the village beauty. Conflict is also evident in the subtle struggle for superiority between Sidi and Baroka.
Sidi goes to make a mockery of Baroka for feeling important. That confrontation is an obvious use of conflict, and it creates suspense. Will Sidi be able to carry out her plan to make a mockery of Baroka? Will she reject Bale’s marriage proposal and marry the teacher?
Denouement: Denouement is the final resolution of a conflict in literature. This can be seen in the play when Sidi eventually decides to marry Baroka, and Lakunle turns his attention to another girl.
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