The Lion and the Jewel Questions and Answers
by Wole Soyinka

The Lion and the Jewel book cover
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Discuss how Wole Soyinka depicts culture in the play The Lion and the Jewel

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Felicita Burton eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Wole Soyinka depicts contemporary West African culture as a complicated mixture of European and Yoruba elements, including important social institutions such as marriage and education. He uses both characters and performative elements to convey these complexities.

The various characters in The Lion and the Jewel have been affected by the ongoing colonial legacy of British rule, although Nigeria is now an independent nation. Lakunie’s education and upbringing have led him to reject traditions and to believe that he should persuade others to follow his views. Sidi, who dresses and wears her hair in traditional fashion, appreciates having her image spread through the modern technology of photography. One element of traditional marriage is bride price. While he rejects it as antiquated and irrelevant to modern society, Sidi's prospective bride interprets his refusal to pay as an insult.

Soyinka sets the play initially in Ilujinle’s market square, the emotional as well as economic heart of the town. Throughout, he weaves in music, dance, and mime to show the ongoing importance of cultural features.

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Wole Soyinka depicts traditional Yoruba culture throughout the play The Lion and the Jewel by illustrating the roles and feelings of various characters in their village of Ilujinle. Soyinka examines gender roles in traditional African cultures by discussing the bride-price and portraying the differences between Lakunle and Baroka in regards to how they feel women should be treated in their society. He also includes tribal music, dance, and pantomime throughout the play. Wole Soyinka develops the character of Baroka and uses his wisdom and experiences with Europeans to depict how traditional African tribes dealt with impending colonial regimes. Several characters in the play also mention Yoruba religious figures while they are speaking. In doing so, Soyinka illustrates traditional African beliefs. Soyinka depicts African culture in the setting, imagery, dialogue, and plot of the play.

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