The Lion and the Jewel

The Lion and the Jewel Summary and Analysis of "Night"


Sidi is standing and admiring her photos as before. Sadiku furtively carries in a bundle and takes an object out of it. It is a small statue of the Bale, and she begins to laugh at it. She exults that women have taken down the mighty Lion. She notices Sidi and tells her about this battle that has been won. When Sidi hears what happened regarding Baroka’s virility, she also laughs uproariously.

Lakunle hears them and comes over, asking what they are talking about. Sadiku’s jokes clue him in, and he is shocked.

Sidi suddenly says she has an idea: she will go to the palace for the supper Baroka invited her to, and then she will delight in thwarting him because he cannot have her anymore. Sadiku is excited by this, and tells her to look bashful and repentant.

Lakunle begs them not to torment the man, and warns that he may turn violent against her.

After Sidi leaves, Sadiku scoffs at Lakunle that it is absurd to think he can have a girl like that. Sadiku asks if he has paid the bride-price for her and he tells her to mind her own business. She responds that he wants to get rid of that.

Lakunle boasts that in a few years the whole village will be transformed. There will be cars, new goods, a modern park, newspapers, and cocktail parties. Sadiku stares at him in terror. He smiles. He tells her she must embrace this and start going to his school with the twelve-year-olds. Her mind is unformed, and she must change.

In Baroka’s bedroom, the Bale wrestles with another man. The contest is balanced. Sidi enters, admiring the room. Baroka continues to wrestle; he asks her if there was no one to stop unwanted strangers from entering his house. Sidi is surprised.

Baroka starts to act a bit friendlier towards her, but he asserts that it annoys him when young women are spiteful or forward.

Sidi claims she has come as a repentant child; her earlier message was thoughtless. Baroka acts indifferently, and she becomes upset. Finally he tells her that she is too quick to be aggrieved. She then decides to move forward with her mission, saying that she thought the Bale's favorite was a gentle woman. She teases that maybe the favorite was dissatisfied with her husband. Baroka looks at her and asks if she really thinks he has time to care about women’s spite.

Baroka’s change of mood unnerves Sidi, but then he tells her to sit and try not to make him feel like a humorless elderly man. She sits and watches the contest.

Sidi comments that she thinks the other man will win. Baroka says the other man must win, because he only fights against people who can make him stronger; when Baroka can win, he will find a new wrestler. He adds that he also changes wives when he tires of them.

Sidi thinks of a new strategy. She tells Baroka a woman spoke to her that afternoon and brought a message from a suitor. Baroka tells Sidi that many men must want to “build their loft to fit your height” (43). Irritated, she says yes, and that this man had many lofts. She asks Baroka if he would pay the bride-price for her, were he her father. He replies that he must know more about the man.

A series of questions ensues. Baroka asks if the man is rich; Sidi says it is rumored that he is. He asks if he is repulsive; she says he is old. She then mentions a scandal of Baroka regarding snuff and he breaks, angrily saying that this was misunderstood, throwing his wrestling opponent at the same time. Sidi gleefully laughs and dances.

The questioning game continues, with Baroka asking if the man is wise, can beget children, etc. Sidi says he could once beget children, but cannot anymore. He smiles that perhaps maybe he is husbanding his strength. She giggles.

Baroka seems to be speaking to himself for a bit, complaining about Sadiku and the daring little girls of the town who vex him. He knows he is growing ill-tempered.

Baroka turns to Sidi and asks if Sadiku invented some tale when she spoke to Sidi. Sidi denies this. He sighs that Sadiku always plays matchmaker without his permission. His life is not terrible, as Sidi wonders, but he grows tired of women’s immodesty.

Baroka hands Sidi an addressed envelope and asks her if she knows what the red piece of paper in the corner is. She says it is a stamp, and he asks if she knows what it means. He goes to a strange machine and pulls the lever up and down. He tells her to come over to it, and explains that while the machine is not working properly now, he will figure it out; the village of Ilunjinle will have its own tax on paper.

He asks what she thinks about the bridge in the stamp's image, then explains there will be many more images, including even Sidi’s visage. She drowns in this glorious contemplation. He softly tells her, “I hope you will not think it too great / A burden, to carry the country’s mail / All on your comeliness” (51).

Baroka begins to ruminate out loud. He comments that he does not hate progress; he only hates “its nature / Which makes all roofs and faces look the same” (52). This sameness disgusts him. Sidi is listening bewilderedly. He continues, saying that they are two different generations but they will unite in the stamp with her face on it. She tells him he speaks ambiguously like the schoolteacher does. His words are like beetles jumping at her ears, and she says that, sadly, she has a simple mind.

Baroka pats Sidi and says her mind is straight and truthful. He admits that he and Lakunle are a great deal alike and must learn from each other. The old and new must join; old wine thrives in new bottles. Sidi seems overcome. Her head drops on his shoulders.

As the scene shifts, a troupe of dancers files in. Female dancers pursue a male dancer. Lakunle and Sadiku are waiting for Sidi’s return. Lakunle is very nervous and assumes that either Baroka has killed her or that she is languishing in a dungeon. He plans to risk his life to save her, even though she little deserves it.

The mummers can be heard in the distance. Sadiku tells Lakunle he ought to pay for a performance. Lakunle refuses, but when the mummers come by Sadiku grabs money from his pocket and gives it to them.

The mummers dance the story of Baroka. It first depicts him in his prime, but then shows his downfall. Sadiku is given the honor of participating and “killing” him. Lakunle enjoys the performance against his will.

Sidi suddenly comes running in, sobbing. She will not let Sadiku touch her, and Lakunle assumes she has been beaten. Sidi lifts her head and calls them both fools, telling them the Bale lied to Sadiku and is more cunning than they knew. It was a trick: he knew Sadiku would not keep the story of his impotence to herself.

Lakunle is horrified and asks if she is still a maid. Sidi shakes her head no. Sadiku shrugs and says this happens to the best of us.

Lakunle recoils, but then stands tall. He says his love is selfless and he will still marry Sidi. He also does not need to pay the bride-price anymore, because she is not a maid. Sidi looks at him, puzzled. She asks if he would still marry her; when he says yes, she darts away.

Sadiku tells Lakunle, who feels like he is making a noble sacrifice, that Sidi is getting things ready for the wedding. Lakunle is a bit confused and replies that there ought to be no hurry. They need to do things right; he cannot be unmarried one day and married the next. He even begins to think that he is being bamboozled into marriage.

A crowd and musicians arrive, and Sidi enters. She is lovely and clothed in rich garb. She hands Lakunle the magazine; she says she tried to rip it up but was not strong enough. She invites him to come along to the wedding, which confuses him. She says, surprised, that he surely cannot think she was going to marry him. She cannot ever endure the touch of another man after Baroka. Now she has felt strength and zest, so why would she “choose a watered-down…beardless version of unripened man?” (63.) Lakunle tries to stand in her way, but she pushes him away.

Sidi kneels before Sadiku, who blesses her fertility. The musicians play and sing. The air is festive, and a young girl shake her buttocks at Lakunle. He runs after her.


The third act of the play, “Night,” is certainly full of surprises (some more surprising than others). Sadiku is not the loving, dutiful wife she initially presented herself as; Baroka is not opposed to progress as Lakunle insinuated; Baroka’s tale of impotence was a ruse, and he seduces Sidi; Sidi decides to marry Baroka; and Lakunle seems to rapidly forget about Sidi. Soyinka demonstrates a plethora of wit and irony as he engages with the larger theme of tradition vs. modernity.

Baroka the Lion is able to get his Jewel due to several factors: his vacillating temperament that destabilizes her confidence; his subtle compliments; and his impressing her with the stamp machine that would putatively issue stamps with her visage on them. As Sidi is a veritable Nigerian Narcissa, this allows her to relax her guard and to sink into the warmth of her pride. Of course, it should be clear that Baroka is a lascivious old man who lies and deceives in order to rape Sidi, something that is rightly very difficult for audiences to come to terms with.

However, Baroka is clever, witty, and even poetic at times; Soyinka gives the audience many things to like about him. The fact that Lakunle is such an obnoxious rival for Sidi’s affections also helps to promote Baroka over him. Critic Robert Willis writes, “the winning of Sidi by the Bale is logical and right. His concern is for life; Lakunle’s is for rhetoric. Lakunle plans to ‘civilize’ her by marrying her, without considering Sidi’s own feelings and desires. The expectations of reformer Lakunle are stifled in the face of the Bale’s cunning and expertise. Lakunle’s own follies result in his loss of Sidi.” One of the more amusing Lakunle moments is when he comments that at least he doesn’t have to pay the bride-price, because one should never compromise their principles: obviously, the truth is that he is selfishly relieved that he does not have to pay money.

As stated above, Baroka’s views on progress are not as black-and-white as Lakunle made them out to be. Yes, he is polygamous, he tricks Sidi so he can rape her, and he did divert the railway away from Ilujinle so his life would not be affected; however, he does not “hate progress, only its nature / Which makes all roofs and faces look the same” (53). He asks Sidi if this “sameness does not revolt your being” (53). He uses a metaphor of a skin of progress covering “the spotted wolf of sameness” (53). He is willing to learn from the schoolteacher and claims that “the old must flow into the new” and “old wine thrives best / Within a new bottle” (54). Even though they are also slyly sexual puns that are meant to go over Sidi’s head, these comments make the Bale a much more nuanced character.

What the Bale is proposing is modernization, but modernization on African terms. He does not see the need for progress-for-progress’s-sake. Critic Mumia Abu-Jamal sees Soyinka suggesting “that Western learning is out-of-synch with village life, and is impotent. For Lakunle, his ‘learning’ reflects an alienating distance from village life and from their perspective, so much foolishness.” John Povey agrees, saying the play’s satire “is directed at the sacred cause of progress and change and not as might be anticipated at the stubborn reaction exemplified by the old chief. in short, this ridicule is not, as is common, directed against conservatism and age but against the follies implicit in change.” The past can be valid when it contains elements of social continuity, and change ought to respond to the past, not challenge and combat it. J.Z. Kronenfeld asserts a similar conclusion, claiming that the play seeks to expose self-seeking and inconsistency in all characters and “shows how people use ‘traditional’ for ‘modern’ purposes, and the ‘modern’ for traditional purposes, in accordance with universal human motivations of pride, power, and sex, rather than out of loyalty to an abstraction such as ‘tradition,’ or even primarily out of religious or moral conviction.” The binaries of traditional and modern, Kronenfeld warns, “may be rather meaningless and indeed misleading ready-made categories to use in the analysis of modern African literature.”

One final thing to consider: why does Sidi marry Baroka? On the surface it seems like it is because he took her virginity. She also says that he is strong and manly and Lakunle is a “watered-down… beardless version of unripened man” (63). He is also more deeply connected to her background, her village, and her worldview. Sadiku, for all her cunning, also genuinely seems to like being part of the Bale’s group of wives, and Sidi may be influenced by the older woman’s assertions of power and harmony.