The Lion and the Jewel


Wole Soyinka

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Themes and Colors
Tradition vs. Modernity Theme Icon
Men vs. Women Theme Icon
Pride, Vanity, and the Power of Images Theme Icon
Language, Words, and Trickery Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Lion and the Jewel, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Tradition vs. Modernity

The Lion and the Jewel was written and first performed the year before Nigeria was granted its independence from Great Britain, and the script was published two years after independence. As such, one of the primary conflicts of the play pits traditional Yoruba customs against a western conception of progress and modernity, as represented by the conflict between Baroka and Lakunle for Sidi's hand in marriage.

Lakunle represents the modern Nigerian man. He wears…

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Men vs. Women

The Lion and the Jewel focuses on the competition to win Sidi's hand in marriage, which makes the play, in a sense, a battle of the sexes. As such, the play asks a number of questions about the nature of each sex's power: why men or women are powerful; how they became powerful in the first place; and how they either maintain or lose that power.

The men who fight for Sidi see her…

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Pride, Vanity, and the Power of Images

As the village belle, Sidi is exceptionally vain. She knows her worth is tied to her beauty, and she wastes no time reminding Lakunle and the other villagers that she's beautiful. However, when the stranger captures Sidi's beauty on film and returns to Ilujinle with photographs, Sidi's vanity grows exponentially. The photographs introduce Sidi and the villagers to the power of images, and the ensuing events of the play explore the power derived from imagery…

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Language, Words, and Trickery

The Lion and the Jewel is filled with instances of trickery, particularly surrounding language. Language is the tool by which characters fool one another, create false impressions of superiority, and convince others to support their goals. Thus, language is shown to be a source of power. However, the play ultimately suggests that language is most powerful when used without lies or misdirection, and when it is applied in service of concrete, achievable goals.

Lakunle delights…

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