Youth and problem of self-definition: a case study of Wole Soyinka’s the lion and the jewel

Complete project


Cover page
Title page – – – – – – – – ii
Certification – – – – – — – iii
Dedication – – – – – – – – iv
Acknowledgements – – – – – – v
Tables of contents – – – – – – vii
1.1 Purpose of Study – – – – – 1
1.2 Scope of study – – – – – – 1
1.3 Life and Works of Wole Soyinka – – – 2
1.4 Review of Literature – – – – – 4
1.5 Thesis Statement – – – – – 12

2.1 Definition and Clarification – – – – 13
2.2 Lakunle as the Madman of Ilujinle – – 13
2.3 Sidi as the Jewel of Ilujinle – – – – 17
2.4 Baroka’s Inordinate Exhibition of Power – – 20
3.1 As Revolutionary – – – – – 23
3.2 As Ingenious – – – – – – 28
4.1 Maturity and Immaturity – – – – 33
4.2 Sincerity and Insincerity – – – – 37
4.3 Traditional Victory Over Modernism – – 41
5.1 Conclusion – – – – – – – 44
Works Cited – – – – – – 48

1.1 Purpose of Study
The purpose of the study is to show how Soyinka through careful use of themes exposes societal wrongs, focusing on the youth and the problem of self-definition.
1.2 Scope of Study
The essay focuses on Soyinka’s exploration of youth and the problem of self-definition as theme in the play The Lion and the Jewel. In this endeavour, attention will be drawn to how the playwright employs the youth and the problem of self-definition to expose the societal wrongs focusing on the theme of perception of the society and exercise of power over the youth such as Lakunle as the madman of Ilujinle, Sidi as the jewel of Ilujinle and Baroka’s inordinate exhibition of power.
Also attention will be focused on the theme of the youth’s opinion of itself; as revolutionary, as ingenious.
Finally this study will look at how the author uses the theme of disparity between the two points of view and the final resolution: maturity and immaturity; sincerity and insincerity and traditional victory over modernism.
1.3 Life and Works of Wole Soyinka
According to Jones (xiv-xvi), Oluwole Babatunde Isola Soyinka was born on 13th July, 1934 in Abeokuta. His father hailed from Ijebu and his mother hailed from Egba. That is he was born of Ijegba parentage. He had his primary education at St. Peter’s School, Ake, Abeokuta (1938-1943). He gained admission into Abeokuta Grammar school. Where he spent only a year (1944-1945) before moving to government college, Ibadan (1946-1950). He completed his secondary education there and proceeded to University College, Ibadan (1952-1954) a school noted to have trained Nigeria’s foremost writers and now known as “The University of Ibadan”. While at the University College, Ibadan, he founded the “Pirate confraternity”
In 1958, he secured a job with the royal court theatre in Shoore square, London as a script reader. He produced his first dramatic sketches, poems, and songs “The inventor” which was never published but was performed at the theatre on November 1,1959. A Dance of the African Forest and The Swamp Dwellers were also produced in London. His eighteen months stint at the Royal Court theatre, when English theatre was rejuvenating from the ruins of World War II, proved to be the veritable practical school, he attended aside the theories he learned at school. He earned attention with his two earliest plays: The Swamp Dwellers and The Lion and the Jewel. Also this period coincides with a time of revived nationalism in Nigeria. All these had profound influence on him, that in 1960, Soyinka returned to Nigeria to put on stage his play: A Dance of the Forests to mark Nigeria’s independence from British rule. He returned as a Rockefeller Research Fellow in Drama and quickly established himself as a talented artist by forming “The 1960 Masks,” a drama company which he directed. Soyinka was once described as “Jack of genres, a master of all,” for he is a playwright, poet and a novelist.
Soyinka has taught in various Universities within and outside the country and has written a lot of works. He has taught in University of Ife, Lagos and Ibadan all in Nigeria, Yale (USA); Legon (Ghana), Churchhill College, Cambridge (UK) amongst others. Some of his works include classic plays like; The Lion and the Jewel (1963), The swamp Dwellers (1963), The Strong Bread (1964); The Road (1965), A play of giants (1954) Childe International (1987) etc.
Novels such as; The Interpreters (1965) and Season of Anomy ;Poetry such as; Idanre and other poems (1967), Ogun Abibi Man (1976). Critical works such as; Myth literature and The African World (1976), The Critic and The Society (1981).
He has won many international prizes for his contribution to literature. The greatest was the prestigious Nobel prize for literature (1986). He is the first African to be so honored.
1.4 Review of Literature
According to Gerald Moore, a Literary critic, the play The Lion and the Jewel is a conflict or a contrast between the traditional and the modern. Moore says that the contrast can be seen between Baroka (traditional) and Lakunle (modern), where Sidi is the conflict itself. He sees Baroka as being selfish because, even though he deafens his ears to civilization and closes his gates against the challenges of the future, he uses the product of modernism to seduce Sidi for his own selfish interest and convenience.
He says:
Baroka is no more stereotyped reactionary. It suits his character and position to keep to modern influences at arms length, but his seduction of Sidi by means of the stamping machine and magazine photograph show that he is able to make influences work for his own convenience (27).

The critic sees Lakunle as somebody who is caught between the country and the city life. Lakunle has the ambition to ‘turn the village out’, but the ability to do so is not there and this: “Is the pitiful part of his dilemma and (……..) his strongest claim upon some of the audience’s final sympathy” (27).

This is the reason why Gerald Moore sees Lakunle as an example of someone at home in neither country nor city.
Another critic, Carole Boyce Davies says that her:
….. study of female portrayal in Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel reveals no Significant departure from his biased nature about women. An examination of the characteristics of these women portrayed produces a distinct impression that the author is conjuring up the image of the same ideal woman over and over again. (89)

Here Davies (90) notes the similarities between Soyinka’s female characters in The Lion and the Jewel and Death and the king’s Horseman, whom she calls the foolish virgins.
Also, Davies (91) is offended by the title of The Lion and the Jewel, for she said: “As the title connotes, the male is given the qualities of strength and prowess which the name lion suggests while the females is endowed with the virtues of an ornament, a prized POSSESSION”
Again, Davies (93) condemns the play’s denouement. When she said:“It seems unlikely that a girl who is now full of herself as a result of the magazine photos and also aware of, Baroka’s suppers, would be so gullible when confronted with this trickery”.

James Gibbs, another critic of Soyinka’s works, sees The Lion and the Jewel in another perspective. Unlike what other critics discussed earlier, he does not quite agree with the conflict between too culture: traditional African values and Western Civilization, with Baroka representing the former and Lakinle the latter. He says: “those who find a bland reactionary message in this play have misread or mismatched it” (53)
Gibbs says that Baroka is just a Bale who holds a position of influence in Yoruba society which is not a static community but liable to changes. Lakunle, on the other hand, is far from representing western civilization.
According to him, Lakunle is only a ‘demi’ evolves’ with missionary prejudices. His own view of the play is: “the confluence of two traditions: the Yoruba masque and the European satirical musical” (53)

He sees the play as rather the union of two culture than the contrast or conflict between two cultures. He justifies this with the seduction scene where Baroka argues that;
The Old must flow into the new
Oyin Ogunba also says that “The main part of the play is the dilemma of choice between the rival worlds of traditional and modernism; and Sidi is the one caught in it” (32).
He also says that the central idea of the play is the contrast between the traditional and the modern ways of life, but instead of focusing on Lakunle, he focuses on Sidi as the one who has the problematic choice between tradition and modernism.
Biodun Onibonoje also says that The Lion and the Jewel as a play is woven round Lakunle, Baroka and Sidi. He sees the central theme of the play as the conflict between the forces of traditional past and the Western values or way of life, in which the test of the influence lies in the person of Sidi.
He says that:
The Lion and the Jewel is a play basically on a society in the process of social change. In the process there are two influences: that of the traditional past represented by Lakunle; the former fully established and the latter looking for acceptance in the society (101).

Onibonoje sees Baroka as symbolic of the traditional past which has readily gained ground in the society while Lakunle is symbolic of the Western civilization which is looking for acceptance in the society. Sidi is the one caught up in-between these cultures. She later resorts to marrying Baroka ‘an embodiment of the past’. The critic therefore is saying that, the battle between the traditional past and Western values is won by the former.
Oladele Taiwo also says that:
Soyinka presents vividly the conflict of the new order with the old over social customs such as marriage; and the struggle between progress and tradition. The new order in society is represented by the village school teacher, Lakunle, which opposes vehemently the practice of the old order as represented by Baroka, Bale of Ilujinle …. Soyinka represents these two orders in dreadful conflict but emphasizes the hold of the old traditions on the people (163).

According to Taiwo, (172) “Some of the marriage customs are shown, Lakunle loses Sidi because he refuses to pay the bride-price and Baroka takes Sidi without formal or personal wooing which is the exclusive privilege of a chief”.
Also, Taiwo (175-176) after commending Soyinka’s effort, brings out the flaws in the play – The Lion and the Jewel. First, Taiwo (175) condemned the portrayal of the Bale in the end part of the play. The Bale who is supposed to have an unquestionable authority over his subjects, proposes to Sidi who in turn rejects his proposal and as such the Bale condescends to a mean trick in a bid to marry Sidi. He thus says:
We give Wole Soyinka credit for his success in using local materials and giving it national significance. But his presentation of tradition may sometimes be biased. The marriage between Baroka and Sidi is not only improper but also improperly conducted. It is not unusual for a chief to marry a girl, young enough to be his daughter. The authority of the chief in the village is such that he can decide on any woman; old or young and appropriate her as a wife. It is therefore surprising that in The Lion and the Jewel Baroka has to resort to a mean trick to capture Sidi after she had ruefully rejected his proposal.

Second, Taiwo (176) brings out the contradictory portrayal of Sidi in the play, when he Said:
….. if Sidi were a true village girl the control of her parents over her would be so strong that they would have at least some say in her love affairs … first of all, we see Sidi defying the authority of the Bale by rejecting his proposal. Even when she finally meets the Bale, she addresses him as an equal. All this does not conform with Yoruba tradition. If what Soyinka wants to show is the effect of Western culture on Sidi, the village setting is appropriate for this purpose.

Thus, some critics have explored the play, The Lion and the Jewel in terms of conflict between two cultures: the old and the new while others explored it in terms of a union between tradition and modernism. Again,some critics have felt that this conflict is embodied in Sidi,others have felt it is embodied in Lakunle. However, based on the evidence available no critic sees Sidi and Lakunle as being a team, representing a particular group in the society – the youth, and faced with the same problem – that of self-definition. None seems to recognize that they possibly share more in common with each other than with any other character in the play.
1.5 Thesis Statement
The aim of this essay is to examine self-definition as a problem peculiar to both Sidi and Lakunle as youths. This will involve an examination of the perception of the society and its exercise of power over the youth; the youth’s opinion of itself; and the disparity between the two points of view and the final resolution.



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