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 is the significance of the bride price in The Lion and the Jewel?

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The bride price in The Lion and the Jewel represents traditional Yoruba customs. Lakunle refuses to pay it, because he rejects many traditional ideals and wants his community to embrace Western values. The clash between cultures here allows Wole Soyinka to explore the tensions between modernization and tradition.

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The bride price, the dowry that has to be paid to marry Sidi, functions in The Lion and the Jewel as a symbol of the traditional Yoruba customs and values. The young Lakunle wants to marry Sidi, but he feels that the bride price is an outdated, demeaning custom and does not want to pay it. But his critique of the bride price insults Sidi, who is deeply committed to the traditional values and customs of her culture.

Lankule’s rejection of the bride price represents modern ideas and how they impact people’s identity and relationships in communities like Sidi’s. Lakunle is not completely committed to a Western mindset, as he still actively participates in some Yoruba customs, like dancing. Yet he also does things like calling the villagers “savages” and critique Sidi for carrying a pail of water on her head.

Lakunle wants other people in his community to embrace Western ideas, like him, yet he does not have a full understanding of how to integrate Western change. Instead, he takes to rejecting and insulting traditions like the bride price. Through this issue, Wole Soyinka explores the theme of modernization versus tradition and the ways they clash and create conflict.

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What is the importance of the bride price in "The Lion and the Jewel" by Wole Soyinka?

The bride price is a dowry that has to be paid in order for Lakunle to be allowed to marry Sidi. Sidi, like most people in her community, takes the bride price very seriously. To her, it is what determines her worth. Lakunle, on the other hand, being educated and obsessed with the abandoning of Africa's more regressive traditions, refuses to pay the bride price because he considers it to be barbaric and antiquated. We eventually learn, of course, that Lakunle is far more interested in the financial gain that would be represented by forgoing the bride price, as he becomes ecstatic when he learns that Sidi's virtue is no longer intact.

The central allegory of the work is that Sidi, as the "jewel," represents the heart of the African people. She is beautiful, precious, and the object of the entire village's affections. The conflict between Lakunle and Baroka represents the war of tradition and modernism for the soul of Africa. Lakunle cannot win Sidi because in attempting to bring modernization to the village, he has no respect for its tradition. He believes that he has the intellectual high ground in every disagreement, causing him to refuse to entertain any opposing viewpoints. It could be said that all failing efforts to modernize Africa were, in themselves, a refusal to "pay the bride price." Lakunle does nothing to integrate African culture into the context of modernity, as a true intellectual would. He simply attempts to apply everything about western culture to life in Africa as though it should easily fit.

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