Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 468
The Lion and the Jewel describes the happenings of one day in the village. In the first scene, “Morning,” the dramatist concentrates on the expectations of all three principal characters, the Bale, Lakunle, and Sidi, who are brought together by chance. The stage displays the new—the students chanting the “Arithmetic...
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The Lion and the Jewel describes the happenings of one day in the village. In the first scene, “Morning,” the dramatist concentrates on the expectations of all three principal characters, the Bale, Lakunle, and Sidi, who are brought together by chance. The stage displays the new—the students chanting the “Arithmetic Times”—and the old: Sidi carrying the pail of water, the traditional work of Nigerian women. Lakunle’s twenty-three-inch-bottom trousers attest his modern “civilized” tendencies. His chauvinistic remark to Sidi, “as a woman, you have a smaller brain than mine,” immediately reveals his conceit to the audience.
Wole Soyinka introduces a metaphor for the modern world in the (unseen) person of the photographer who takes pictures of Sidi; the photographer is presented as a mirror for Lakunle. Four girls begin a chant, dancing around Lakunle; they are then joined by drummers. The girls construct a mime representing the four wheels of a motor car, in another parody of the civilized world. This subtle scene, without dialogue, reveals the true nature of Lakunle as he pinches the “tires,” the girls’ bottoms. The scene comes to an abrupt halt when the Bale enters and playfully accuses Lakunle of stealing the village maidenhead. As the girls chase Lakunle away, the scene ends with the Bale admiring Sidi’s pictures in the magazine.
The second scene, “Noon,” the longest in the play, introduces Sadiku, the Bale’s head wife. She and Sidi now command the stage, and Sadiku begins her wooing of Sidi for the Bale. Another metaphor for progress appears onstage. The surveyor and his workers, who want to build a railroad, are bought off by the Bale, to Lakunle’s disgust. The scene shifts to the Bale’s house, where, attended by his harem, he conceives his plan to fool and subsequently win Sidi. The scene ends with the Bale’s announcement of his loss of virility.
The last scene, “Night,” begins with Sidi and Sadiku celebrating the Bale’s loss of his manliness. Sidi enters his house, and the Bale begins his seduction in earnest. His outrageous sexual imagery goes unnoticed by Sidi, but not by the audience. The mummers enter and perform a dance of virility: the Bale’s story.
The winning of Sidi by the Bale is logical and right. His concern is for life; Lakunle’s is for rhetoric. Lakunle plans to “civilize” her by marrying her, without considering Sidi’s own feelings and desires. The expectations of reformer Lakunle are stifled in the face of the Bale’s cunning and expertise. Lakunle’s own follies result in his loss of Sidi. The audience’s last glimpse of him, however, portends a man losing his delusions and returning to his true self—a typical human being, fascinated by the physical attractions of the opposite sex.
Last Updated on May 21, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 384
The Lion and the Jewel, on one level, is a comedy about love. Lakunle, the naïve, modernist schoolteacher, attempts to win Sidi’s love by teaching her about the “new” woman’s role, a role based largely on Western society. Opposing him is the shrewd Bale, striving to win Sidi’s love by any means he can, including the ruse about his supposed impotence.
Lakunle’s dress and speech indicate the shallowness of his role of reformer: His clothes show his rejection of the traditional dress of the villages, and his speech expresses his undigested ideas comically. He rejects a traditional element of the marriage ceremony, “the bride price.” He addresses Sidi as an ignorant girl, demonstrating his impetuous lack of control; he alienates himself from the audience with his lack of valid ideas.
The Bale, who wins the sex war, presents himself more favorably. He impresses Sidi with his postage stamp machine, which does not work, and by allowing his servants to form a trade union and allowing them one day off. He is nevertheless, a conservative who plans to keep the village as it has always been. The Bale is a supreme protagonist: Lakunle is simply no match for him. Wole Soyinka’s humorous caricature of Lakunle has the audience taking the Bale’s side. Sidi and Sadiku also win the audience, with their sly understanding of the falseness of both men. Soyinka maintains the humor of the play through his characters—the self-parody of Lakunle, the coquettish behavior of Sidi, and the self-assured quality of the Bale.
The play also has an allegorical level. Sidi represents the Nigerian people, who are tempted to believe the impotence of the past, but eventually experience its power. The Bale represents the centuries of tradition that extend into the present. The mimes, which take place twice in the play, present flashbacks that give the play added historical depth. The play’s energetic combination of dance, song, mime, and comic dialogue reinforces its themes. Soyinka shows a passionate concern for his society, seeking freedom for all. His ideas are not only African, however: His characters and mannerisms are African, but his people represent the whole race. Although many characters are potential victims of their own ingenuity, his heroes are marked ultimately by their ceaseless striving.