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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What are the differences between Sidi and Sadiku in The Lion and the Jewel?

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The characters Sidi and Sadiku in The Lion and the Jewel differ in age, status, and attitudes towards tradition. Sidi, a young maiden, is vain and somewhat naïve, navigating her social prospects, while Sadiku, Baroka's head wife, is an older, experienced woman holding a comfortable status in the community. Sidi challenges traditional beliefs, openly expressing her negative feelings towards Baroka and considering marrying Lakunle. In contrast, Sadiku is a traditionalist who accepts her role and respects Baroka.

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Nigerian writer Wole Soyinka’s 1959 play The Lion and the Jewel centers on the conflict between tradition and modernization and African versus Western culture. Sidi, the “jewel” referenced in the title, is the village belle who is wooed by both Baroka, the chief and “lion” of the title, and Lakunle, a teacher who fancies himself modernized compared to his backward community. Sadiku is chief among Baroka’s wives, presiding over his harem. Sadiku is the one who informs Sidi that the chief wants her as his wife and tries to persuade her to accept the invitation.

One difference between the two women is their ages—Sidi being a young maiden and Sadiku an established matron. As Baroka’s head wife, Sadiku holds a comfortable position of status in the community while Sidi is trying to navigate her social prospects. Sidi is often motivated by her vanity, which makes her relatively easy prey for Baroka and Sadiku’s marriage plans. Sidi at first resists Baroka’s advances, but the chief and Sadiku ultimately outsmart the younger, somewhat naïve woman. Both women accept their traditional African culture, including its marriage customs of bride prices and polygamy.   

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There are several notable differences between the characters of Sidi and Sadiku in the play The Lion and the Jewel. Throughout the play, Sidi is a young, attractive maiden who is yet to make her decision on who she will marry. Sadiku is Baroka's chief wife who is much older than Sidi. Sadiku is a traditionalist who submits to the Yoruba culture by accepting her position as the Bale's head wife. Unlike Sadiku, Sidi challenges Ilujinle's traditional belief that women should submit to males. Sidi brags about her beauty, dismisses Lakunle, and even mocks the Bale. Sadiku is more refined and presents herself as the typical head wife while Sidi is portrayed as a young, brash, conceited woman. The two characters also differ in their behavior towards Lakunle and Baroka. Sidi tolerates Lakunle and even considers marrying him at the beginning of the play, while Sadiku continually criticizes Lakunle and argues with him. Sadiku also openly respects Baroka, while Sidi is not shy about her negative feelings towards the Bale.

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