The Lion and the Jewel Questions and Answers
by Wole Soyinka

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

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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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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Felicita Burton eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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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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James Cooper eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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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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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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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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