What is an analysis of the character Lakunle in Wole Soyinka's play The Lion and the Jewel?

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tamarakh's profile pic

Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Wole Soyinka's play The Lion and the Jewel represents the conflict the native Nigerian villagers feel concerning whether or not to embrace their own past culture or the modernist future and how to go about combining both. In the play, the school teacher Lakunle represents the modernist side of culture. Yet, his characterization also shows that he is not quite reaching his goal in achieving Western modernization because he doesn't thoroughly understand the culture.

His modernization is depicted in the fact he wears English clothing rather than native clothing. Yet, his English suit is also described as being "old-style." Since the suit is so old, it is also "threadbare," and most importantly, the suit is "obviously a size or two too small." The description of his old-fashioned clothing helps to show that he is, in reality, still stuck in the past though he is trying to embrace modernization. The fact that the suit is also too small for him shows that the modernization he is trying to adapt to doesn't fully fit his needs, desires, or understanding. He lives partially in his past Nigerian village culture and partially in the present.

His attempt to embrace modernization is further depicted in the fact that he refuses to pay Sidi's bride-price, which is a gift in either money or goods a groom pays to a bride's family in order to express her perceived value and the sincerity of his intention to marry her. Sidi refuses to marry Lakunle if he declines to pay her bride-price because she argues his refusal shows the rest of the village that she is not a virgin and not worthy of payment. Lakunle, on the other hand, argues, along the lines of Western thought, that such a tradition is akin to placing a woman in bondage and a form of oppressing her. More specifically, he lists a series of adjectives he feels expresses the hatefulness of the practice:

A savage custom, barbaric, out-dated,
Rejected, denounced, accursed,
Excommunicated, archaic, degrading,
Humiliating, unspeakable, redundant,
Retrogressive, remarkable, unpalatable.

Yet, interestingly, some of his chosen words have nothing to do with his personal belief he is trying to express, such as excommunicated, redundant, and remarkable, showing just how little he understands the modernized Western culture that he is trying to embrace.

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kimmycodling | eNotes Newbie

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this is the smmary of the play. this play consists 3 section as morning . noon and night.

Morning

A schoolteacher is teaching a class the times table when Sidi walks past carrying a pail of water on her head. The teacher peers out of the window and disappears. Two 11-year-old schoolboys start ogling her, so he hits them on the head and leaves to confront her. At this point, we find out that the schoolteacher is Lakunle. He is described as wearing a threadbare and rumpled clean English suit that is a little too small for him. He wears a tie that disappears beneath his waistcoat. His trousers are ridiculously oversized, and his shoes are blanco-white. He comes out and insists on taking the pail from Sidi. She refuses, saying that she would look silly. Lakunle retorts, saying that he told her not to carry loads on her head or her neck may be shortened. He also tells her not to expose so much of her cleavage with the cloth she wears around her breasts. Sidi says that it is too inconvenient for her to do so. She scolds him, saying that the village thinks him stupid, but Lakunle says that he is not so easily cowed by taunts. Lakunle also insults her, saying that her brain is smaller than his. He claims that his books say so. Sidi is angry.

 

When they are done arguing, Sidi wants to leave, but Lakunle tells her of his love for her. Sidi says that she does not care for his love. Eventually, we find out that Sidi does not want to marry him because Lakunle refuses to pay her bride-price as he thinks it a uncivilised, outrageous custom. Sidi tells him that if she did so, people will jeer at her, saying that she is not a virgin. Lakunle further professes how he wants to marry her and treat her "just like theLagoscouples I have seen". Sidi does not care. She also says that she finds the Western custom of kissing repulsive. She tells him that not paying her bride price is mean and miserly.

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