The Lion and the Jewel

The Lion and the Jewel Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Allegory: Nigeria

The play is often viewed as an allegory in that Sidi is Nigeria, caught between the modern (Lakunle) and the traditional (Baroka). She is interested in the modern because it feeds her ego and seems to offer youth and excitement, but she is also derisive of its falseness. The traditional does not interest her at first because she thinks she is better than it is, but she comes to recognize the safety, security, and value in it.

Symbol: The Camera

The stranger's camera symbolizes modernity. It is a newfangled object to the extent that one of the village girls calls it a "one-eyed box" (10). It is able to capture Sidi's young, beautiful image and reproduce it for everyone to see and gaze on in perpetuity.

Symbol: The Railway

The railway is another symbol of Western modernity. Railways, commonly implemented by European colonial governments, is a system of transportation, something that brings people in and takes people out. It irrevocably opens a place up to the rest of the world, and this is why Baroka is so opposed to it. The physical breaking of the ground represents to him a smashing of tradition and autonomy.

Motif: Sango and his lightning

Sango is the Yoruba orisha, a ruler, and a wielder of justice. He also uses thunder and lightning to enforce justice. He is evoked several times in the text. First, Sadiku uses him to threaten the obnoxious Lakunle. Second, she evokes him again when she is exulting over the Bale's impotence ("Oh Sango my lord, who of us possessed your lightning / and ran like fire through that's lion's tail..." [33]). Third, Baroke mentions him when he tells Sidi his views on progress ("Among the bridges and the murderous roads, / Below the humming birds which / Smoke the face of Sango, dispenser of / The snake-tongue lightning" [52]). Fourth, Lakunle angrily evokes Sango when he hears what has happened to Sidi ("Let Sango and his lightning keep out of this" [60]). Every time he is mentioned, the character mentioning him is talking about justice, retribution, and revenge.

Symbol: The statue of the Bale

Sadiku carries with her a little statue of the Bale and uses it in her merry dance after she hears he is impotent. The statue, which is naked and well endowed, ordinarily represents the Bale in his power. However, now that Sadiku knows the truth about the Bale's power and strength, it now seems like an impotent, inert object and nothing else. It is a reminder of what he once was and what he now is—a figurehead.