How would you describe Lakunle from Wole Soyinka's The Lion and the Jewel?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lakunle is the village school teacher who opposes traditional Yoruba culture in favor of modern Western civilization. He continually criticizes Sidi, Baroka, and Sadiku for their way of life. At the beginning of the play, he tells Sidi, "Only spiders carry loads the way you do" when he sees her walking with a pail of water on her head, which is the traditional African way villagers transported water (Soyinka 2). Lakunle knows that he is ostracized and ridiculed by the villagers for his modern views but is unapologetic and arrogant. He says to Sidi,

"For that, what is a jewel to pigs? If now I am misunderstood by you and your race of savages, I rise above the taunts and remain unruffled" (Soyinka 3).

In his support of modernity, Lakunle refuses the pay Sidi's bride-price, claiming that it is a savage custom. Regarding the bride-price, he says, "An ignoble custom, infamous, ignominious shaming our neighbors our heritage before the world" (Soyinka 7). Lakunle is also clumsy and sounds like a fool by trying to impress people with his "big words." He is also a hopeless romantic. When he talks to Sadiku about the future of Ilujinle, he says,

"Within a year or two, I swear, this town shall see a transformation, bride-price will be a thing forgotten, and wives shall take their place by men. A motor road will pass this spot and bring the city ways to us. We'll buy saucepans for all the women; clay pots are crude and unhygienic. No man shall take more wives than one. That's why they're impotent too soon. The ruler shall ride cars, not horses. Or a bicycle at the very least. We'll burn the forest, cut the trees, then plant a modern park for lovers" (Soyinka 37).

Despite Lakunle's apparent affinity for Western civilization and modernity, he attempts to manipulate the traditional custom to his benefit. After learning that Sidi is no longer a virgin, he says to her, "But you will agree, it is only fair that we forget the bride-price totally since you no longer can be called a maid" (Soyinka 60). Lakunle's comments reveal his true intentions and portray him as an insincere individual.

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The Lion and the Jewel

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