The Lion and the Jewel

The Lion and the Jewel Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Why does the Bale decide to trick Sidi?

    The Bale is a crafty figure who is used to getting what he wants. He decides he wants a new wife and finds Sidi, newly famous from her magazine photo, a perfect candidate. However, when she slights his advances and calls him old, he hatches a plan to not only make her his wife but to put her in her place as well. His own words reveal his intentions: he complains about the "ruinous tongues" (45) of women; that "this town-bred daring / Of little girls, awaken in me / A seven-horned devil of strength (47); and that he "[loses] his patience / Only when I meet with / The new immodesty with women" (49). Baroka needs to feel masculine and in charge, and uses Sidi as a way of making that happen.

  2. 2

    How does Lakunle use words, and what does this say about his character?

    Lakunle is full of words. He has practically a dozen syllables for every word, critique after critique for those unlucky enough to come in his path, endless rumination on what a modern wife will be like and the progress he will bring to Ilujinle, prideful boasting, and more. He uses words as a way of asserting power and learning: he tries to subdue the people around him with them. However, Lakunle's words are fatuous and ridiculous. It is telling that when he gets the chance to forgo his words by acting in the performances, he seems more relaxed and comfortable; this is him momentarily letting go of the posturing and preening.

  3. 3

    Is the play more of a "local" story, or does it have universal resonance beyond Nigeria?

    On the one hand, the play seems rather specific and local. It tells the story of a Nigerian village complete with: an aged, polygamous ruler; a simple girl who carries a bucket of water on her head; a conniving elderly woman eager to expand her husband's harem; and a schoolteacher who is very much a product of his time and place. The song, dance, and performances are foreign to Western audiences. The cultural elements like a bride-price, the marriage and fertility celebration at the end, the invocation of Yoruba gods, and the opposition to such modern conveniences such as a railway make the play seem remote. However, the story actually resonates on a far deeper level. The motivations of the characters are universal—lust, pride, vanity, and jealousy. The main themes, such as the clash between tradition and modernity, romantic rivalry, old vs. young, etc., are also universal.

  4. 4

    In what sense can the play be viewed as an allegory?

    Critic Robert Willis writes, "The play also has an allegorical level. Sidi represents the Nigerian people, who are tempted to believe the impotence of the past, but eventually experience its power. The Bale represents the centuries of tradition that extend into the present. The mimes, which take place twice in the play, present flashbacks that give the play added historical depth. The play’s energetic combination of dance, song, mime, and comic dialogue reinforces its themes." Sidi-as-Nigeria is caught between modernity—represented by Lakunle and the stranger with the camera that so enticed her with her own visage—and tradition, represented by the Bale. She dismisses the Bale as old and jealous of her, but by the end she has to acknowledge the power in his cleverness in securing her. Soyinka suggests that Nigeria ought to be cognizant of the power of tradition: it should not be easily swayed by the spurious charms of progress.

  5. 5

    In what regard is Baroka a "lion" and Sidi a "jewel"?

    Baroka is a lion primarily due to the animal's power and strength, which represent his character. The lion also suggests authority, domination, and courage. Baroka's actions in the play, along with his recounting of all his brave and memorable deeds, bear out this characterization.

    Sidi is a jewel because she is shiny and worthy of desire. On the one hand, being a jewel is powerful because it means that one is alluring and valuable. However, it also means that one is a commodity, desired for what one is worth as a financial means, not for any intrinsic value. Sidi is something for the Bale to acquire and show off, not for him to truly love.