The way women are treated in The Lion and The Jewel are determined by traditional and modern influences which have an underlying similarity. The beliefs and actions of Baroka and Lakunle with regards to women will be critically discussed and evidence will be used to show the similarities in opinions with regards to women.
Baroka lives his life under the influence of tradition. One of the traditions he follows entails having multiple wives. Through this it is shown that Baroka does not have any regard for the actual woman, but rather the idea that the more women he has the more power he receives. He sees women as possessions rather than individuals and does not display respect for these women. This is seen through the manner in which he treats his latest wife. He calls her a ‘Venegeful creature’ and tells her that she does not have any more time to learn because that night he hopes to ‘take another wife’ (Soyinka, 1963). He also uses power as a tool for manipulation in the play. This is shown through the trickery with Sadiku and Sidi. This manipulation starts when he tells Sadiku that his ‘manhood ended’ (Soyinka, 1963). He presents these women with the idea of power and the illusion that they have a hold on him. This is also seen when he speaks about the ‘legend of Sidi’ on the stamps and paints a vision of Sidi being ‘the village goddess’ (Soyinka, 1963). Baroka manipulates these women and uses them to increase his own power. It is through these events that we are able to identify that Baroka views women as sexual objects which are there to bring him pleasure and provide him with heirs to carry his name and legacy. The women are not given opportunities to be educated as Baroka does not believe in modern beliefs of education or that women should be educated. Through this is it seen that Baroka believes men are superior to women and that women should not be given the freedom or power that men have been granted.
Lakunle lives his life under the modern influence. He discourages tradition and the bride-price as he says women should have the option to marry who they love. By doing this he manipulates Sidi by making her think her opinion matters and she can make decisions too. However, he only says this as he is unable to pay the bride-price. Lakunle not only wants to transform Sidi into a modern woman with ‘red paint on her lips’ and hair ‘stretched like a magazine photo’ (Soyinka, 1963). He wants to take away her traditional heritage and replace it with the actions of ‘civilized beings’ (Soyinka, 1963). By using these words, he is diminishing her heritage and what she has grown up in. This shows that he wishes to control her decisions and her future by eliminating her past. Lakunle uses words to show his power and manipulate the decisions or opinions of women. He makes himself look superior by using words which are big and go over the heads of under-educated people. However, these words do not correspond with the topic at hand. Although he believes that women should have increased opportunities to learn and participate in the economy, he still views women as inferior to men.
There are many underlying similarities in the way that Baroka and Lakunle treat women. Manipulation is the first similarity. They both use their superiority to manipulate women by making them think in a certain way. This makes them feel as if they have freedom. However, Baroka and Lakunle are only using the idea of freedom to benefit themselves. Power is the second similarity. By ensuring that women are seen as less educated and manipulative, they are enhancing their own power and ensuring that their power is respected and remembered. The third similarity is superiority. By manipulating women and enhancing their own power, they are ensuring that women are inferior to men. Baroka and Lakunle justify their actions through ideas of tradition and modernism, making it acceptable and expected. The women’s beauty is seen as a jewel that can be displayed rather than an individual that needs to be loved, cherished and appreciated. Women are portrayed as easily manipulated, powerless and inferior in the eyes of Baroka and Lakunle.
Through the beliefs and actions of Baroka and Lakunle, we are able to identify that the women in the play are represented as easily manipulated, powerless and inferior to the men. Therefore, the representation of women in the play is that, a woman is not allowed as much freedom or power as a man.