In his play, Wole Soyinka places gender prominently at the forefront of social conflicts between traditional and modern society. Lakunie, a young African man who has received a Western education in the city, believes that his reforms will benefit society in general and women specifically. He is attracted to Sidi for the most superficial reason, her beauty, and he believes that his modern attitudes will increase his status in her eyes. He does not consider Sidi’s perspectives on the matter. Although she also has some modern attitudes, including her desire to choose her own husband, she has not rejected all aspects of traditional culture. Sidi considers bride-price a reflection of the potential groom’s affirmation of her value, and she is insulted that he refuses to pay.
A related issue is a type of polygamy—having multiple spouses—called polygyny, the practice of one man having several wives. Lakunie also believes in monogamy, marriage between two individuals (in this culture, man and woman). Sidi, however, takes into account what her relative status would be in Baroka’s household, which would be partly determined by the attitudes of the senior wife. She decides that being one of two wives in a wealthy man’s home will give her higher status than being the sole wife of a poor schoolteacher. In these ways, Soyinka shows the complexity of traditional cultural gender norms as they are influenced by modern changes.