Themes in Wole Soyinka’s THE LION AND THE JEWEL

Themes in Wole Soyinka's THE LION AND THE JEWEL

Wole Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel includes themes such as male chauvinism and marriage and love, deceit, modernity versus tradition, and virility and cowardice.

Male Chauvinism: Theme

This belief is in the inherent superiority of men over their female counterparts. The theme of male chauvinism can be seen in Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel. This is first seen in the conversation between Sidi and Lakunle, in which Sidi attributes the latter’s inability to understand what he is talking about to the generic inferiority women have.

Sidi, a woman, claims that her brain is smaller than his. His claim is supported by the scientifically-proven fact that “women possess a smaller brain than men”. This is why they are known as the “weaker sex”. Sidi skepticism about this assertion.

“The weaker sex, is it?” Is it a weaker species that pounds yam?

Or bends all day for the millet

“With a child strapped on her back?”

The Lion and the Jewel

This dialogue refers to the male-dominated African society and second-fiddle women’s role in traditional African society.

Another indicator of the theme of male chauvinism can be found in the manipulation of women by men. Sidi, for one, is influenced first by Lakunle’s worldview and then manipulated later by Baroka, the wily village head. The Lion and the Jewel depict the women’s world as easily manipulable by the men.

The theme of Love and Marriage

Sidi is the center of attraction in this play. Her beauty makes her attractive to village men and even strangers. Baroka, Lakunle, and their love for Sidi are expressed in their unique ways.

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The Lion and the Jewel also highlight the marriage institution. Lakunle tries to attract Sidi’s attention with his flowery language and promise of an equal union. Baroka takes a more pragmatic approach when inducting Sidi into his harem. Sidi eventually marries Baroka.


Baroka is a perfect example of the theme of deceit. Sadiku is a liar about Baroka’s impotence. Sadiku spreads the news about Baroka being humiliated. Sidi accepts Baroka’s invitation and agrees to go out with him.

Themes in Wole Soyinka's THE LION AND THE JEWEL

Sidi wouldn’t have accepted Baroka’s invitation if she knew she was being deceived. If she had known, Sidi would not have accepted Baroka’s invitation and, consequently, may not have married him.

Let’s forget about probabilities. Baroka wins Sidi’s heart with deceit.

Modernity or Tradition?

Wole Soyinka’s “The Lion and the Jewel” shows the growing gap between traditional African values and European values. This play is a reflection of postcolonial realities on the African continent.

The West educated a new generation of Africans that embraced European values completely but saw all things African as backward and barbaric. Lakunle, a spokesman for such Africans, is featured in The Lion and the Jewel. He is against the practice of paying bride prices, a longstanding tradition. He rejects any African tradition that appears to conflict with his beliefs in European values.

Baroka is the Village Head and is located on the fringe. Baroka is the custodian of African culture, tradition, and customs. He recognizes the necessity of Western education in his village. However, he is against any Western values or intrusion into a civilization that could undermine his power or make him less relevant or effective. He influences the diversion from Ilujinle of Railtrack and frowns on Misita Lakunle’s views. For example, Lakunle imposes a one-day holiday on palace workers to ensure they work in accordance with the conditions in the civil service or similar organizations established by the European colonialists.

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Sidi, affected by the duo’s views, stands between them.

Lakunle wants to bring civilization to Ilujinle. Baroka, however, is more interested in keeping the status quo as is. The Lion and the Jewel a play about the conflict between tradition and modernity.

Cowardice and virility

Again, this is evident in the comparison between the main male characters, Lakunle (and Baroka), which again shows that they are not comparing their ideas but their approaches to Sidi. Both have different ways of winning Sidi’s love. Lakunle is a snob and pretends to love Sidi. However, he isn’t ready to pay her the bride price even though he wants to marry her. Conscious of her feminine pride and dignity, Sidi will not marry Lakunle because he refuses to pay her the bride price.

Baroka, on the other side, is willing to do whatever it takes to make Sidi his, even if it means being deceitful. Baroka will do anything to make Sidi his, even if it means he has to be deceitful. He is sixty-two years old and shows virility, energy, and a level of maturity that Lakunle, who was still in his twenties, couldn’t claim.

Sidi gives credit to Baroka for being “the Lion” and a real man, while Lakunle is described as a “beardless unripened version of the Lion”.

What other themes are you finding in The Lion and the Jewel, and what do they mean? Leave a comment below.


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