What is the role and function of Lakunle in the play The Lion and the Jewel

Lakunle serves the role of representing a push towards modernity and the yearning to implement Western values in post-Colonial Nigeria in the play The Lion and the Jewel. This sets him up as a foil of Baroka, the head of the village. The feud between these two men is the driving force of the play's plot.

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Lakunle is Ilujinle's schoolteacher. Because he was educated at a British school, he seems to enjoy emphasizing how well he knows English. Lakunle wants to modernize Ilunjinle and marry Sidi, the most beautiful woman in the village. Sidi knows that she is beautiful and understands that she can use her beauty to gain power of men like Lakunle. Lakunle seems to resent her flaunting her beauty, as he tells Sidi in the first scene of the play:

You could wear something.
Most modest women do. But you, no.
You must run around naked in the streets.
Does it not worry you... the bad names,
The lewd jokes, the tongue-licking noises
Which girls, uncovered like you,
Draw after them?

Sidi then rebukes him:

Is it Sidi who makes the men choke
In their cups, or you, with your big loud words
And no meaning?

Lakunle seems frustrated by Sidi, and though he wants to marry her and make her a "modern wife," he does not want to pay her bride price, as is tradition and instead seeks to woo her with beautiful words:

Wasted! Wasted! Sidi, my heart
Bursts into flowers with my love.

Lakunle also turns his nose up at his village's traditional customs and culture.

A savage custom, barbaric, out-dated,
Rejected, denounced, accursed,
Excommunicated, archaic, degrading,
Humiliating, unspeakable, redundant.
Retrogressive, remarkable, unpalatable.

Lakunle, young and arrogant, flaunts his overblown knowledge of English and treats his village's traditions and customs with snobbery. He represents modernity and postcolonialism, and his character also conflicts with Baroka, the village chief. Baroka also wants to marry Sidi, and he ultimately does because Lakunle, though he is younger and more handsome, seemed cold and condescending to Sidi and would also not pay her bride price.

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In Wole Soyinka's play, The Lion and the Jewel, the character of Lakunle serves to represent the influence of modernity and, to a certain extent, the legacy of colonialism in Nigeria. As a school teacher and well-known member of his small village, Lakunle wants his community to rush ahead into the modern world and make sweeping changes. He considers most Yoruba customs and traditions to be backward, antiquated, and ignorant. For instance, he refuses to pay Sidi's bride price even though it would help him convince her to marry him. These opinions do not endear Lakunle to his neighbors who think of him as arrogant and unintelligent.

This sets Lakunle up against Baroka, another suitor of Sidi. Baroka is in many ways the opposite of Lakunle. He is decades older, has several wives and concubines already, and is recognized as the head of the village. As such, he respects and follows Yoruba traditions and represents pre-colonial Nigeria. None of this is to say that Baroka does not recognize certain advantages of modernity. However, he still rejects these changes because he sees them as a threat to his position. This feud between Lakunle and Baroka represents the greater societal struggles between modernity and tradition that are represented in this play.

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Lakunle's role is to highlight the growing influence of Western culture on Africa, even in the remotest villages. An educated man who thinks that the tribal customs are outmoded and barbaric, Lakunle is determined to wean Sidi away from the old ways. Yet he fails, as Sidi chooses for her husband Baroka, the village chief, the epitome of everything Lakunle detests.

Lakunle's failure to woo Sidi stands as a reminder of just how far Nigeria must go if it is to be a thoroughly modern, Westernized country. But the suggestion here is that for Western ways to gain a foothold in Africa, they must at least be properly understood, and even then must only be introduced gradually before being incorporated into traditional practices. Lakunle doesn't understand any of this, which is ultimately why he is unsuccessful in gaining Sidi's hand in marriage.

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Lakunle is an educated young man who returns to the village to teach school. He is Baroka's rival as a suitor to Sidi.

Lakunle represents the promises and pitfalls of independent Nigeria and embodies postcolonial identity. He is proud to be a modern man and calls attention to the negative features of traditional society. However, he seems eager to throw out the good with the bad. Advocating freedom for women, for example, he seems to Sidi to be bossy, unappreciative, and condescending. He rejects paying bride as an outmoded custom, but Sidi interprets his reluctance as disrespect for her value and an excuse meant to hide his inability to pay it. His education in the British system has diminished his ability to relate to his own people. Sidi rejects him in favor of Baroka.

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Lakunle is the village schoolteacher and a proponent of Western civilization. He dresses like an Englishman and has a penchant for using “big words.” Wole Soyinka uses the protagonist, Lakunle, to criticize the native Nigerians, who are in a state of cognitive dissonance, as they cannot decide whether or not to embrace Western culture. Lakunle is representative of modernism, but his character and actions reveal how little he knows about Western modernization. Lakunle wears English clothing as opposed to native clothing. However, his English suit is deemed old-fashioned. In fact, it is described as “threadbare” and being “old-style,” which clearly shows how Lakunle is still stuck in the past, even though he tries to portray himself as a “civilized man.”

Further, Lakunle’s pursuit of Westernization is depicted in the fact that he does not want to pay Sidi’s bride-price. He uses a list of adjectives to express his hatred toward this African tradition:

A savage custom, barbaric, out-dated,
Rejected, denounced, accursed,
Excommunicated, archaic, degrading,
Humiliating, unspeakable, redundant,
Retrogressive, remarkable, unpalatable.

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Lakunle is the village's school teacher who has an affinity for Western civilization and culture. He wishes to modernize Ilujinle and attempts to marry Sidi without paying the bride-price. He is Baroka's foil, and his character helps develop the theme of modernity versus traditional African culture. Lakunle is an outspoken conservative who speaks out against Yoruba culture. Although he claims to love Sidi, he is being insincere. At the end of the play, Lakunle's true intentions of not paying the bride-price are revealed. He simply wishes to avoid payment under the pretense that it is a savage custom. Eventually, Baroka wins Sidi's heart and ends up marrying her at the end of the play. Baroka's wisdom and cunning are no match for Lakunle, and the Bale's victory suggests that traditional African culture is stronger than Western ways of life.

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