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 and its relationship to pride and vanity.
After the stranger returns to Ilujinle with the magazine of photographs, Sidi deems herself more powerful than Baroka himself. The magazine and the photographs become evidence of her beauty and her power, and they demonstrate the power of images in several different ways. First, Sidi seems to have never seen herself in a mirror before. Because of this, seeing the magazine is the first time that Sidi has the opportunity to interpret her own image herself, rather than interpreting how others see and treat her. This turns Sidi into a Narcissus-like character, obsessed with her own image. While seeing her own image allows her to take possession of her beauty and body, it also blinds her to the fact that others, too, are attempting to control her image and body. For example, while Sidi might misinterpret the particulars of Baroka's interest in her, it's undeniable that the magazine allows him to enjoy Sidi's image without Sidi herself present and it certainly influences his decision to pursue her as a wife.
When the magazine arrives in the village, Sidi isn't the only character who's shown to be vain and prideful. The village girls make it very clear that while Baroka appears in the magazine, it would've been better for him to be left out—the photo of him is tiny and shows him next to the village latrine. By only appearing once, in a small image, and next to the toilets, Baroka's power is greatly reduced. The scorn of the village girls suggests that the image, in some ways, negates the power he has in real life.
Sidi’s newfound sense of beauty and power, combined with Baroka's unflattering photo, leads Sidi to the conclusion that his offer of marriage comes from a desire to possess and control Sidi's worth. Sidi isn't wrong, and it can't be ignored that Baroka certainly wants to control her worth and keep her beauty for himself by taking Sidi as a wife. However, he also wants to control her worth by putting her photograph on a postage stamp—something that's mutually beneficial for them. By putting Sidi's face on a stamp, Baroka both appeals to her vanity and embraces the power of images. It allows Sidi to enjoy the fame that the magazine brought, while making her even more famous and distributing her image even further. However, it's important to make the distinction that while Sidi will certainly enjoy the fame and recognition that will come from the stamp, fame and recognition are all she'll get. She won't enjoy the economic power from the profits, and she won't be credited with modernizing the village by developing a postal system. Baroka will enjoy both of these things because he ultimately has the power to control Sidi's image and, by extension, Sidi herself.
Pride, Vanity, and the Power of Images ThemeTracker
Pride, Vanity, and the Power of Images Quotes in The Lion and the Jewel
My name is Sidi, and I am beautiful.
The stranger took my beauty
And placed it in my hands.
Baroka merely seeks to raise his manhood
Above my beauty
He seeks new fame
As the one man who has possessed
The jewel of Ilujinle!
They are lies, lies. You must not believe everything you hear. Sidi, would I deceive you? I swear to you...
To think that once I thought,
Sidi is the eye's delight, but
She is vain, and her head
Is feather-light, and always giddy
With a trivial thought. And now
I find her deep and wise beyond her years.
The old must flow into the new, Sidi,
Not blind itself or stand foolishly
Apart. A girl like you must inherit
Miracles which age alone reveals.
Dear Sidi, we shall forget the past.
This great misfortune touches not
The treasury of my love.
But you will agree, it is only fair
That we forget the bride-price totally
Since you no longer can be called a maid.