The Lion and the Jewel Characters
The main characters in The Lion and the Jewel are Sidi, Baroka, Lakunle, and Sadiku.
- Sidi is a beautiful young woman whose photographs were recently featured in a magazine.
- Baroka is the elderly leader of Ilujinle. After seeing Sidi’s photographs, he wants her to be his newest wife.
- Lakunle is a forward-thinking but generally hapless schoolteacher. He wants to marry Sidi but refuses to pay her bride price on account of his belief that it is a demeaning practice.
- Sadiku is Baroka’s first wife and personal matchmaker. She conspires with Sidi to humiliate Baroka after discovering his alleged impotence.
Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 906
Sidi is young, beautiful, and vain. As the most eligible young woman in the village of Ilujinle, she is courted by both the schoolteacher Lakunle and the village leader, Baroka. Sidi is sharp-tongued and strong-willed; Some of the trappings of modernity seem to appeal to her, but she does not share Lakunle’s mindless dismissal of tradition. When she argues with Lakunle over their supposed agreement to marry, she insinuates that his refusal to pay her bride price has less to do with equality and more to do with stubbornness. In her eyes, the bride price is an essential part of a respectable marriage, and if she agreed to marry Lakunle without a bride price, her honor and virtue would be called into question. Her sense of practicality is reinforced when she defends her traditional clothing and way of carrying the water pail: whereas Lakunle is concerned with the image presented of a scantily clad woman carrying water on her head, Sidi simply views it as the most efficient and comfortable way to perform the necessary task.
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Despite Sidi’s practicality in some matters, she is also vain. Sidi’s power increases in both her own eyes and the eyes of others when a magazine featuring photographs of her appears in the village. When Baroka’s interest in Sidi deepens upon the publication of the magazine, Sidi’s vanity transforms into arrogance, and she conspires with Baroka’s first wife, Sadiku, to play a trick on him. However, Sidi’s pride is her undoing, and her efforts to humiliate Baroka fail. Instead, the crafty Bale rapes her, and Sidi agrees to marry him in the aftermath.
Baroka is the sixty-two-year-old Bale, or leader, of Ilujinle. He is a polygamist, and at the start of the play, five months have passed since he has taken a new wife. When the magazine appears with Sidi’s photographs, Baroka’s interest in Sidi transforms into a wish to marry her. In order to maintain his physical fitness, he wrestles with a man who is stronger than him. When Sidi rejects Baroka’s proposal on account of his age, he seemingly grows anxious, but his nervousness is a ruse. Though Sidi and Sadiku plot to play an emasculating trick on him, Baroka takes control of the situation and enacts revenge on Sidi. By forcing Sidi to marry him, Baroka exhibits his own craftiness as well as his determination to uphold traditional patriarchal norms.
A young schoolteacher enamored of both Sidi and modern ways of life, Lakunle attempts to court Sidi with misguided paternalistic gestures. Though Lakunle claims to be an educated man, he is ignorant and lacks common sense. Lakunle views traditional village life as beneath him and compares Ilujinle unfavorably with Lagos, a major city in Nigeria where modernity has arrived. Though Lakunle professes to love Sidi, he often disparages her and views her as less intelligent; as such, Lakunle is undaunted by Sidi’s rejections. Eventually, he believes, she will see that he, as a modern-thinking man, is her best option. By the end of the play, however, Lakunle is proven wrong; Sidi, having been outsmarted, decides to marry Baroka.
Sadiku is Baroka’s first wife, and though she treats him with deference when they are together, she attempts to emasculate him by conspiring with Sidi. As Baroka’s first wife, Sadiku plays matchmaker when he expresses an interest in Sidi. Ironically, though Sadiku dreads the arrival of modernity to the village, she clearly resents Baroka’s power and celebrates his apparent impotence as a victory of women over men.
The stranger from the outside world is a photographer. The photographer does not appear in the play, but his photographs of Sidi appear in a magazine. The photographer represents an outsider’s lens, and Sidi is emboldened by the fact that people outside of Ilujinle have experienced and appreciated her beauty.
The wrestler is the man Baroka hires to help him stay fit. He makes appearances at various points throughout the play, indicating a moment at which Baroka is about to use his power over someone else. When Sidi first arrives at Baroka’s house, Baroka is sparring with the wrestler; Baroka continues to wrestle the man as he greets Sidi and talks with her. When Sidi angers Baroka with her bold disrespect, Baroka defeats the wrestler, claiming that Sidi’s boldness gave him a surge of strength.
Baroka’s current favorite wife is named Ailatu, and she has no speaking parts in the play. At midday, she plucks hairs from Baroka’s armpit to give Baroka pleasure, but when he tells her he will be taking a new wife, she plucks a hair without her usual care, hurting Baroka in the process. Though Ailatu says nothing during this interaction, Baroka’s responses to her and descriptions of her at other moments suggest that she is not a docile woman, despite her fulfillment of a traditional role in Baroka’s household.
The surveyor is a white man who has no speaking parts in the play. He appears onstage as Lakunle narrates the story of Baroka’s refusal to allow a railway to be built through Ilujinle. After accepting a hefty bribe from Baroka, the surveyor halts the work, falsely claiming that the ground in Ilujinle is not stable enough to support the weight of a train.