The Lion and the Jewel

by

Wole Soyinka

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The Lion and the Jewel: Noon Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Sidi walks down the road followed by Lakunle, who is carrying firewood for her. Sidi is engrossed in the photographs of herself in the magazine. Sadiku, Baroka's first wife, is coming towards them on the road and she startles Sidi. The women greet each other and Sidi excitedly shows Sadiku the photographs, pointing out the gloss of the pages. Sadiku tells Sidi that she has a message from Baroka and suggests they speak privately. Sidi offhandedly says to ignore Lakunle, and Sadiku says that Baroka wants to marry Sidi.
Finally, Sidi actually gets to see the photograph of herself. Her vanity means that she's more than ready to participate in distributing the images, thereby spreading the photo that stands as proof of her beauty (and power) to the entire village. Notice here that while carrying firewood is something that Sidi would traditionally do, she's allowing Lakunle to do it for her—the images give her an exaggerated sense of her own importance.
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Lakunle drops the wood and begins calling Baroka greedy and a trickster. Sidi asks Lakunle to be quiet, but Lakunle only drops to his knees, grabs Sidi's hands, and begins to kiss them. He invokes the names of women from the Bible and implores Sidi to not listen to Baroka. Sidi snatches her hands back, tells Lakunle that her name is Sidi, and says that she doesn't need Lakunle's funny names since the stranger put Sidi's beauty right into her hands.
Here, Sidi mimics Lakunle and is cherry picking which parts of modernity suit her (in this case, photography rather than the Bible). Lakunle's language again makes him look silly rather than worthy of Sidi's affection. Notice too that Sidi didn't simply get control of her own beauty—a man gave it to her. This shows that she's not fully in control of her image.
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Sadiku asks Sidi if she'll agree to be Baroka's "jewel." Sidi tells Sadiku that she won't fall prey to Baroka now that she's famous, which makes Lakunle smile. Sadiku tells Sidi that Baroka has promised that Sidi will be his last wife. This means that when he dies, Sidi will be the senior wife of the new Bale, and until then, she'll be the favorite. Sadiku says it's a life of luxury and one that she herself has led for the last 41 years.
Notice here that it's not only the men who reduce women to objects; the women also talk about each other as though they're objects. However, by accepting Baroka's offer of marriage Sidi would be afforded a great deal of power. Though Lakunle has indicated that a modern marriage would also give Sidi power, his other language suggests otherwise.
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Sidi refuses. She says that Baroka only wants to marry her because the stranger increased her worth with the photos. She insists that Baroka wants to have her as property, that he wants little more than to be famous for possessing the "jewel of Ilujinle." Sadiku is bewildered and asks Sidi if she's sick. Sadiku turns suddenly to Lakunle and accuses him of driving Sidi mad. Lakunle runs a little ways away and calls Sadiku a hag.
Sidi understands that in this situation, modernity in the form of the photos gives her the power to refuse both traditional and modern marriages. However, she still objectifies herself by referring to herself as the "jewel of Ilujinle." Sadiku sees this as a direct result of Lakunle's insistence on modernity, which directly threatens the traditional system of Ilujinle.
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Sidi instructs Sadiku to return to Baroka and tell him that she won't marry him. Sidi opens the magazine and points at the photographs, saying that she never realized before how old Baroka is. She runs her fingers over the pages, saying that she never noticed how smooth her skin is, and nobody ever complimented her breasts. Lakunle tells Sidi that he would've, but it wasn't proper. Sidi ignores him and continues to describe her beauty compared to Baroka's advanced age. She calls him leathery and "the hindquarters of a lion." Sadiku gasps.
Sidi demonstrates her intense vanity, which the power of images has exaggerated. While it's indicated that she's always been vain, seeing her own image makes her feel as though she has the power to exist outside of both traditional and modern systems. This is illustrated by her insult to Baroka's age, which is a direct insult to tradition.
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Sadiku finally asks Sango (a Yoruba god) to help Sidi, saying that an angry god is surely possessing her. She begins to leave but turns back again a moment later. Sadiku says that if she won't marry Baroka, he at least requests her presence that night for a small feast in her honor. Sidi laughs and says she knows all about Baroka's suppers. Sadiku says that whatever Sidi's heard is all lies, but Sidi asks if it's true that every woman who eats with Baroka becomes a wife or a concubine the next day.
Baroka has evidently been successful in the past in tricking women into becoming wives and concubines through appealing to their pride and vanity with these suppers. Here, Sidi's pride saves her from this fate for the time being. Sadiku's comment about Sidi being possessed by a traditional Yoruba god is somewhat humorous, considering that Sidi is actually being influenced by the photographs (and, symbolically, by modernity).
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Lakunle asserts himself again and says that Baroka is called "the Fox" for a reason. Though Sadiku tells him to be quiet, Lakunle says Baroka is known even in surrounding towns for being a trickster. He asks if the women have heard about how Baroka stopped the construction of a railway through Ilujinle. Sadiku says it's all hearsay, but Sidi asks Lakunle to explain.
Remember that Sadiku as the first wife of Baroka has a lot to gain from supporting him and his beliefs. The traditional system that allows for polygamy (and is in direct opposition to modern things like the railroad) is what keeps her in power and allows her to live her "life of luxury."
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Lakunle gestures towards where the track was supposed to be constructed. Prisoners enter to cut through the jungle, and their foreman sets up camp. The foreman consults the map and instructs the prisoners in where to cut down the forest. Lakunle explains that they marked the line of the tracks, which would have brought Ilujinle modernity, fame, and civilization. Baroka's wrestler, upon seeing the prisoners working, looks horrified and fetches Baroka.
Notice here that Lakunle mentions specifically that the railroad would've brought Ilujinle fame. Supposedly, Sidi's photographs in the magazine also brought Ilujinle fame, which introduces the possibility that modernity doesn't have to happen in only one way. There are multiple ways the village can modernize, despite what Lakunle says.
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Baroka takes in the sight and leaves the surveyor to his work. Soon the surveyor and the prisoners hear fearful noises coming from the jungle. Baroka appears with a young woman bearing a gift for the surveyor of cash and food. The surveyor consults his map several more times as Baroka adds more items and money to the pile of gifts. Finally, the surveyor realizes that he made a mistake and the tracks never should've been so close to Ilujinle. He and Baroka drink wine together and the surveyor and his prisoners pack up and leave.
By scaring the surveyor and his work crew, Baroka suggests to the surveyor that there might be negative consequences for laying the railroad so close to Ilujinle. Though the reasons for Baroka’s insistence on maintaining his traditional way of life remain unclear, this shows that he'll go to great lengths to maintain it.
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Lakunle shakes his fist and declares that Baroka loves his life too much to allow the village to modernize. He says that by rerouting the tracks, Baroka secured his animals, wives, and concubines. Lost in thought, Lakunle remarks that Baroka does have quite a selective eye for women. As Sidi and Sadiku slip away, Lakunle muses on the life of luxury Baroka leads with all his beautiful women. Lakunle wonders if he envies Baroka, but decides he doesn't. He states he stands for modernity and wants Sidi to be his soul mate. He finally notices that Sidi is gone, yells for her, and rushes after her with the firewood.
Again, Lakunle is insisting that there's little room for compromise in regards to progress and modernization; he believes that the tracks would've immediately meant that Baroka lost control of his wives and concubines. This continues to illustrate that Lakunle sees no middle ground or room for compromise. For him, modernity must happen on his terms and on his schedule.
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In his bedroom, Baroka lies in bed with his current favorite wife. He's wearing only baggy pants. Baroka’s wife is plucking hairs from his armpit, which Baroka finds enjoyable. His wife asks if she's helping, and Baroka tells her she's being too gentle still. When she says that she'll have time to learn, Baroka tells her she has no time, as he plans to take another wife and the honor of plucking his armpits is reserved for the newest wife. The favorite plucks the next several hairs sharply. Baroka sits up angrily and deems his favorite vengeful.
The staging of this scene begins to develop Baroka as exactly the way Lakunle describes him: a womanizer, anti-progress, and living the life of luxury as facilitated by his many wives. He's also quick to anger when those around him don't behave perfectly. Notice too that at this point, the favorite doesn't have a name. She's an object; the lack of a name denies her full personhood.
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Sadiku enters the bedroom and bows to Baroka. Baroka asks if she's brought balm for his armpit and sends his favorite away. Sadiku explains that Sidi refused to marry Baroka. Baroka is unconcerned. He says they all refuse at first and he asks why Sidi refused. Sadiku explains that Sidi thinks Baroka is old.
Baroka has obviously engaged in this song and dance before; he speaks like someone confident that Sidi will come to her senses and agree to marry him. He thinks that he's very powerful and will certainly be able to sway her.
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Baroka angrily jumps up, incensed that a young girl would say such a thing. He asks Sadiku if it's possible and lists his achievements of the last week: winning a log-tossing match, hunting leopards, and climbing the silk-cotton tree to break the first pod. He asks Sadiku if any of his wives think his "manliness" is failing, saying that all of them are tired long before he is. He states that Sidi would tire too, if he had the chance to show her how great age is. Baroka lies back down on the bed and asks Sadiku to soothe him.
Baroka continues to appear self-centered and vain as he lists his accomplishments. His accomplishments illustrate what makes men powerful in Yoruba society: strength, hunting skills, and the ability to perform sexually and father children. Notice too that he situates himself as a teacher when he mentions showing Sidi how great age is. This phrasing allows him to give himself power.
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Sadiku sits down and begins to tickle Baroka's feet. Baroka grabs a magazine from under the bed and opens it to look at the photos of Sidi. With a sigh, he compares some of the photos in the magazine before flinging it away. He says that maybe it's for the best that Sidi won't marry him. Sadiku, curious at this, asks Baroka to repeat himself. He continues that the laughter would've been awful if Sidi had agreed to marry him and his "purpose" failed. Sadiku says she doesn't understand. Baroka admits that his "manhood" (virility) ended last week, and he hoped that a virgin would restore his manhood. Shocked, Sadiku moans and cries.
The way that Baroka acts and phrases the admission that his virility is gone works as a way for Baroka to give up power to Sidi and the other women around him. He admits that he thinks Sidi has power as a virgin, and he evidently is willing to accept the power structure as presented by the photographs (Sidi as powerful, Baroka as decidedly not powerful).
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Suddenly, Baroka sits up and tells Sadiku that she's the only one he's told about this since she's the oldest and most faithful of his wives, and he instructs her to tell no one. Sadiku tenderly returns to Baroka's feet. Baroka sighs and muses that he's growing increasingly irritable. He says he's only 62, while his grandfather fathered two boys at the age of 65 and his father had twin girls at 67. Baroka laments having to give up his wives so early in life.
If a reader takes Lakunle's characterization of Baroka as fact, this whole thing begins to look very suspicious. Baroka is known as "the fox" and has a reputation as a trickster, particularly when it comes to his wives. Notice though that Sadiku seems to take Baroka's confession at face value.
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Baroka exclaims that many women's hands have caressed his feet, some clumsy, some too dainty. He says that Sadiku's hands, however, are the best and he calls her the queen of all his wives. Baroka falls asleep suddenly.
Baroka confirms that Sadiku enjoys a great deal of power as the first wife. Again, what gives her this power is the polygamous and traditional societal structure of Ilujinle.
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