Question: “The Lion and the Jewel” is a play about the victory of traditional values over western or modern ones. Discuss.
Or, discuss the limitations of traditional values of The Lion and the Jewel.
Or, discuss Soyinka’s ambivalent attitude culture, and tradition.
Cultural conflict is the central idea of the drama “The Lion and the Jewel” first performed in 1959 and published in 1962 by Oxford University Press. In his writings, Wole Soyinka intends to show that African people have rich cultural traditions and values. He has firmly inserted in most of his writings an African way of living and thinking in order to project an African perspective. In this very drama “The Lion and the Jewel”, we can observe the victorious manner of traditional values over modernity.
Basic concept tradition and modernity
According to Oxford Learners’ Dictionary, tradition stands for ‘a belief, custom or way of doing something that has existed for a long time among a particular group of people; a set of these beliefs or customs. Modernity refers to the condition of being new departing from classical or traditional forms. Here the tradition-based African society is limned.
The outset of the play
When the play starts, Sidi who is the jewel of the title of the drama reaches to the school with water vessel on her head where Lakunle works. Lakunle rushes to Sidi to rebuke her. He filthily objurgates her. Sidi does not like this extremely unpleasant modern man but she wants to marry him if she is given bride price that is the strongest traditional value of the Yoruba village Ilujinle. Lakunle tries to persuade Sidi with modern ideas but she is stubborn for her bride price. Then Lakunle gets frustrated and angrily utters:
“Savage custom, barbaric, outdated, rejected, …………. archaic, degrading, humiliating, unspeakable, retrogressive, remarkable, unpalatable”
One can feel very easily that Soyinka cares for the traditional qualities of life and he is on the side of Baroka. Thus, it is evident that so-called modernity that disparages women gets easily failed to attract traditional figures.
More Notes of Drama
Performance and dance
Yoruba opera theatre is another way of the conventional life of African society. There are performances and dances in the play. The first one happens in the morning section of the drama when few young ladies of Ilujinle come to Sidi to inform her about the magazine in which Sidi has got utmost significance. Sadiku’s attitude to the dancers and performers proves her loyal to traditional values.
The dramatist has vividly sketched the polygamous tradition of the African society. Though he wants reform of polygamy, he is at the same time ambivalent and supporter of this tradition because of creating Sadiku like submissive character. Sadiku is not only the first wife of Baroka but also the match-maker of the drama. Whenever Baroka wishes to marry, Sadiku is used to convince and it is a matter of surprise that Sadiku’s eloquence must attract anyone. She uses such sweet words to convince Sidi to marry Baroka.
“Will you be his sweetest, princes, soothing him on weary nights?”
Bale dominated society
In the 20th century, the world is being flourished with science and technology and with huge innovative concepts, but the African society is triumphant by the powerful traditional ways of life. Local governess is, of course, one of the best ways of a good governess but in Ilujinle like a village, it is a permanent property for Baroka like men. The Bale can take his father’s last wife as his first wife. This system is no doubt abominable, but it is established in African society. Besides, the Bale has the power to influence government officials by dint of bribe since Baroka was able to postpone the railroad through Ilujinle that is the symbol of progress. However, there is no chance of modernity for getting over traditional values.
End of the play
The ending of the play transparently ensures the victory of tradition over modernity. Sidi who is seduced by the end of the drama gets marriage proposal without bride price from Lakunle who wants to modernize his village. But Sidi rejects Lakunle and adheres to her traditional belief.
“They will say I was no virgin,
that I was forced to sell my shame and marry you without price”
Thus, Sidi’s decision to marry Baroka secures a long-term win for tradition in African society.
After all, it is really crystal clear that the relationship between bride-price and virginity of a girl, Yoruba opera like professional choice and so on could not be defeated and abolished from the mind of the people so easily. That is why cultural heritage is considered by people as the garment of society.