Baroka is the lion of the title, while Sidi is the jewel. Baroka is a respected older man in the town, Sidi is a young woman with aspirations to leave town, and Lakunle is an overconfident young man who courts her.
Sidi has attracted the attention of Baroka as a possible second wife, but she is also sought after by Lakunle. Originally from the town, he had left to pursue an education and has returned as a teacher. Because of Sidi’s beauty and charm, of which she is well aware, a visiting photographer has taken some photographs of her, which she is confident can become the basis of the fame that she seeks. With her confident, assertive manner, she enjoys the men’s attention but during most of the play is not interested in marriage or remaining in her hometown.
Through Sidi’s bantering with Lakunle, the audience comes to see that, despite his avowedly modern ideas, he retains a patriarchal worldview. Speaking to her in a condescending manner, he asserts the correctness of his positions. While he sees himself as superior because of his education and broader experience, in reality he patronizes her because he does not value women—as exemplified by the bride price—or their opinions.
Along with his high status in the community, Baroka has the advantage of having a very clever wife, Sadiku. She understands that his prestige will soar if he wins Sidi’s hand, so she decides to help him win her over. Lakunle’s confidence is shattered when he realizes that Sidi is not just a dreamer but has a decidedly pragmatic attitude. Marrying Baroka is her best option, so she chooses him over Lakunle or an uncertain future elsewhere.