The Lion and the Jewel is about the attempts of two men, Lakunle and Baroka, to win the hand of the fetching Sidi in marriage. Lakunle, a school teacher, symbolizes the Western point of view towards women. He, for example, does not want to pay a dowry, which is a traditional practice. While he believes that traditional practices such as the dowry are barbaric, his ways are condescending as well. He lectures Sidi about the revealing clothing she wears, and he doesn't understand her reasoning for wanting him to pay the dowry—that people will assume she isn't a virgin if he doesn't pay her bride price.
Baroka, the chieftain of the Yoruba village, is a traditional man. He has many wives, and he asks his oldest wife, Sadiku, to try to win over Sidi. He attempts to use flattery to woo Sidi, promising her that she can have a special place as his last wife. When that doesn't entirely work, he tricks her by pretending to have lost his manhood. This is a lie, and, in the end, his trickery and flattery win Sidi over, and she decides to marry him. While Lakunle promises Sidi a more modern life, it is Baroka's experience with women and his cunning that make him the victor in the competition for Sidi's hand.