What is the conflict between tradition and modernity in Wole Soyinka's play The Lion and the Jewel?

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

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In the play The Lion and the Jewel, Nigerian playwright Wole Soyinka portrays a theme representative of his Nigerian people: their desire to believe that past village traditions of Nigeria are no longer useful for sustaining culture yet also their inability to let go of their traditions because they see their beauty and power. Hence, the conflict in the play concerns the traditions of village life vs. the desires to modernize. Different characters represent traditions and modernization.

 Lakunle, the schoolteacher, represents the desire for modernization. One example of his modernization is seen in the fact that he rejects the village's traditional style of clothing and instead prefers to wear an "old-style English suit." He also speaks of Western ideals; for example, he refuses to pay Sidi's bride-price because he feels the custom subjugates her. In contrast, she feels the custom shows the village her worth.

 Both Sidi and her other suitor, Baroka, the man she decides to marry, represent Nigerian tradition. Sidi, in contrast to Lakunle, prefers to hold on to village traditions. Likewise, Baroka, who is the village chief, refuses to modernize the village.

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