The Lion and the Jewel by Wole Soyinka

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What is the significance of the title "The Lion and the Jewel"? 

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Madelyn Truitt eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The significance of the play's title lies in the symbolic nature of these two names. The "Lion" is an elderly man, Baroka, whose power and potency are referred to frequently, and his sexual potency is seen as indicative of his status as a man and, to some extent, as a ruler and chieftain of his village. The lion's symbolic meaning is one of the most legendary of the natural world. The singular male leader of a pride of male and female lions is often the eldest male of the pride. This male lion is dominant and is frequently challenged by younger males. The eldest male keeps his position of power by besting the other males in fighting or by intimidating them into backing down from challenging his dominance, thereby winning the right to mate with the females.

The "jewel" is not a living symbol, and this is appropriate since Sidi is considered valuable for her youth and beauty and is somewhat objectified. She is like a beautiful possession on display at Baroka's side, much like a piece of jewelry or a jewel in a crown. The precious nature of a jewel is often associated with royalty, so Sidi is not only an attractive companion, but also an asset to Baroka's standing as a monarch. Sidi is wooed by a younger man who also admires her beauty, but he is an intellectual and does not possess the animalistic power of the "lionlike" Baroka. It is as if Sidi needs this power of the flesh and blood to balance her abstract existence as an object of beauty. Also, since she is led to believe that Baroka is impotent, she may think her beauty and worth somehow reawaken his potency, thereby reaffirming her own precious value.

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The significance of the title The Lion and the Jewel depicts the relationship between the two leading characters of the play. The chieftain of the village Ilujinle, a Yoruba village in West Africa, is named Baroka, and is known as the "Lion." He is sixty-two years old and is able to deceive the village belle, Sidi. As the title indicates, Sidi is the "Jewel" of the village who gets tricked by Baroka and ends up sleeping with him. Sidi is a vain, flirtatious individual who is awed by Baroka's plan to use her image on Ilujinle's stamps. Baroka is the most revered man in the village and cunningly convinces his senior wife, Sadiku, that he is impotent. Baroka is aware of the fact that Sadiku will gossip and spread the information to the beautiful Sidi. Sidi believes Sadiku and enters Baroka's palace, unaware of his plan to woo her. The "Lion" successfully engages in sexual relations with the "Jewel," and she ends up marrying him.

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