The Lion and The Jewel main character Sidi sitting in the middle of the picture wearing a striped dress with the outlines of two male faces on other side of her

The Lion and the Jewel

by Wole Soyinka

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In The Lion and the Jewel, how do characters represent tradition and modernity?

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In Wole Soyinka’s play, most of the characters embody aspects of both tradition and modernity at different times. The character who is most consistently associated with modernity is Lakunie, the school teacher. One place this is revealed is in his attitude toward marriage. Although he may be motivated primarily by financial concerns, he states his opposition to the tradition of paying the bride price. Sidi, the lovely young woman who is the "jewel" of the title, represents tradition in regards to this custom. While Lakunie is courting her, she does not accept Lakunie’s explanation that this tradition is outmoded. Instead, she sees that his attitude indicates that he does not value her. Sidi refuses to marry him unless he pays the bride price.

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Throughout the scene entitled "Night," Sadiku argues with Lakunle about Sidi's decision to visit Baroka, and Lakunle discusses the future of their village. Sadiku promotes traditional African culture and mentions to Lakunle that he should work on a farm for one season like the other men in order to earn enough money to pay the bride-price. She then ridicules him for not being man enough to smell the wet soil before commenting on how he plans to convert the entire village so he can avoid paying the bride-price. Lakunle is a proponent of modernity and responds by telling Sadiku that in two years the entire village will change. Lakunle comments that women will one day be treated equally, roadways will be built, cars will replace horses, and Ilujinle will eventually become modern like the rest of the world. Lakunle then calls Sadiku simple and says that she should join his class of twelve-year-old children. Lakunle and Sadiku's conversation portrays two characters who have opposing views of traditional African culture and modernity.

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