What are the main themes developed in "The Lion and the Jewel" by Wole Soyinka?

What are  the main themes developed in "The Lion and the Jewel" by Wole Soyinka?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One of the play's main themes is the nature of manhood. In their own unique ways Lakunle and Baroka embody competing ideals of what it means to be a man in a traditional village society becoming ever more exposed to the cultural influences of the modern world.

The Westernized, educated Lakunle sees traditional notions of manhood as problematic, as outmoded remnants of what he regards as a backward, primitive society. Baroka, on the other hand, is very much of the old school. For him, to be a man means to be strong, dominant, and above all, virile.

That Sidi ends up choosing him over Lakunle appears to vindicate his traditionalist world-view. Sidi's choice develops the theme of the nature of manhood further, posing the question as to the extent to which women enable and reinforce the values of patriarchal societies.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

A theme is the central idea within any text (short story, poem, novel, for example). This idea repeats itself throughout a work, drawing the attention of the reader to its importance. In some cases, a theme is used to illustrate the importance behind a moral, lesson, or point. 

In regards to Wole Soyinka's play "The Lion and the Jewel," numerous themes are woven throughout its entirety. The themes of power and love separate themselves from other actions of the text through their repetition. The theme of love is elevated through "speak" of the conflict between modernization and traditionalism, progress, women as property (and their desire to change this ideology), and education. The theme of love, on the other hand, is illustrated through the triangular relationship of Lakunle, Sidi, and Bale. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One of the main themes is the idea of sexual impotence on the part of Lakunle, a young and modern man who is vying for the affections of Sidi, the village beauty.  The opposition in this quest is "The Bale" the old lion of the village.

Lakunle attempts to be committed to his cause of seeking modernity and making social changes, and hopes that this will be enough to attract Sidi to him, but he is unable to actually effectively flirt with her and half-plays at platonic love for her.

The Bale, on the other hand, is wise and cunning and despite his old age, proves to be more than a match for Lakunle in winning the heart and affection of Sidi.

So the conflict of modern and sophisticated vs. perhaps someone traditional but crafty is a theme, as is the underlying importance of sexual power and influence compared to the overt image created or projected by people.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

It is a very entertaining play, with only three acts, so if you haven't already, I highly recommend reading it.  For a brief summary however, I have provided a link below, and that should help.

One of the main themes in the play is the theme of progression versus tradition, represented in the two main male characters, the progressive schoolteacher Lakunle, and the traditional tribal chief Bale "The Lion".  Throughout the entire play they combat ideals and beliefs, all in the ruse of winning Sidi's love.  Sidi herself is encapsulated by this theme, representing many of the Nigerian people's indecision between tradition and modernism.  She sees value in them both, and it is hard for her to commit to one view over another; many of the Nigerians of the time period were caught in this trap, not sure which world to live in.

For more details on characters and plot, take a look at the links below, and good luck!

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial