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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Why does Sidi want a bride price in The Lion and the Jewel, and what does this reveal about Lakunle?

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Sidi looks at her potential bride-price as a monetary expression of her value as a person. She has a very high opinion of herself and fully expects that any bride-price will reflect her exaggerated self-regard. If Lakunle wants to make her his bride, then, he's going to have to put his money where his mouth is.

But Lakunle won't; he thinks he's being a modern man by refusing to go along with what he regards as a degrading, antiquated custom. His value system is clearly incompatible with Sidi's; she still cleaves to the old traditions, which she believes give women like her a sense of security. These customs may not benefit every woman, but for shallow, superficial women like Sidi for whom appearance and status are everything, they seem to be just the ticket.

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Sidi is keen on having her bride-price paid because she mentions to Lakunle that she will be the laughing-stock of the village if it is not paid in full. Sidi tells Lakunle, "Well, do as you please. But Sidi will not make herself a cheap bowl for the village spit" (Soyinka 7). Lakunle says to Sidi that he will take the villagers' scorn, but Sidi believes that the villagers will continue to spread rumors that she was not a virgin and was forced to sell her shame. Sidi is obviously worried about her reputation in the community, and Lakunle is not concerned about Sidi's feelings. Lakunle detests traditional tribal practices, such as paying the bride-price, and refers to it as a "savage custom." He values Western civilization and modern concepts of marriage and love. His initial rebuttals make sense, and it seems like he truly believes that paying the bride-price is uncivilized and will negatively affect their relationship. Later on in the play, when Lakunle finds out that Sidi has lost her virginity, he is excited because he has a rational excuse not to pay the bride-price. The audience finds out Lakunle's true intentions, which were simply to avoid paying the bride-price because of the cost. Lakunle is rather shallow and propagates Western culture as a means to hide his true intentions.

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