Language and style are artistic elements that show the creative verve of an author and by extension, validate their literary work(s).
These two literary elements— language and style— are inseparable. This is because they work pari passu to bring life to the thoughts of a playwright, poet or novelist.
Additionally, given the poetic licence of a writer, the language and style any author chooses to use to meet or create whatever purpose or effect, define the overall structure of their work.
Typically, Wole Soyinka is known as a wordsmith. In fact, call him a literary god. Over time, his unique style of putting words together stands him and his literary works out among his contemporaries.
In The Lion and the Jewel, Wole Soyinka did not render less. He brings forth the beauty of literature through his creative use of language and style.
The Lion and the Jewel is a masterpiece that successfully combines the concept of literature as a tool both for socio-cultural activism and shining spotlight on aesthetics.
Therefore, in this post, our focus is on the creative use of language and style in The Lion and the Jewel by Wole Soyinka.
We are going to discuss in detail, how Soyinka is able to come up with the play text as a defence of Tradition against modernism without sacrificing the place of the beauty of art.
Creative Language Use in “The Lion and the Jewel” by Wole Soyinka
As we already noted in our earlier post (A detailed Summary of the Lion and the Jewel), the play text dramatises the conflict between tradition and modernity majorly.
Again, it is obvious that Wole Soyinka is on the defensive side of African tradition because tradition eventually overcome modernism at the end of the play.
The question now is, how is the playwright able to drive home his point in the play text?
Soyinka discusses the subject matter of The Lion and the Jewel through creative use of language and style .
The language used in The Lion and the Jewel captures rich linguistic elements such as proverbs, witty sayings well as poetic elements like personification, oxymoron, simile, parallelism and hyperbole as part of characters’ dialogues.
Soyinka also uses cultural elements such as songs, drums and dances to sell the African beauty to the reader.
- Detailed Analysis of “The Lion and the Jewel” by Wole Soyinka
- Alapata Apata: Dramatising the Nigerian Saga (Themes)— Review I
- Alapata Apata as a Satire: Style and Techniques—(Review II)
- A Review Of Aké: The Years Of Childhood (Part 1)
Now, let’s get into detail.
1. African proverbs/ Witty Sayings in The lion and the Jewel
The Lion and the Jewel is replete with African proverbs and Witty sayings. Inside, the characters uses these cultural elements to dialogue on important issues.
For instance, when Baroka realises that he has outsmarted Sidi, he speaks in proverbs as he seduces her. He says that “the truth is that old wine thrives best within a new bottle.”
Other than the above the Lion and the Jewel also capture the characters using African proverbs and wise sayings such as the following:
- “If the tortoise cannot tumble, it does not mean he can stand” pg 42
- “Charity begins at home” pg 52
- “When a child is full of riddles, the mother has one water-pot” pg 42
- “A man must live by his true principles” pg 61
- “Until the finger nails have scraped the dust, no one can tell which insect released his bowels” pg 43
2. Poetic Use of Language in The Lion and the Jewel
The playwright also makes use of poetic language style in The Lion and the Jewel.
This involves the use of personification, simile, and parallelism. For instance, Lakunle says that Sidi is “as stubborn as an illustrate goat” in page 2.
Reacting, Sidi also claims in exaggeration that “the whole world knows the madman of Ilujinle” page 3.
We also see the profound use of parallelism in The Lion and the Jewel as a form of language style by Wole Soyinka.
For instance, Lakunle shows his resentment against the cultural norm of the bride price. He describes it as:
"A savage custom, barbaric, out-dated, rejected, denounced, accursed, excommunicated, unspeakable, archaic, degrading, humiliating, redundant, retrogressive, remarkable, unpalatable." [Page 7]
From the foregoing, one thing is deductible from the creative use of language and style in The Lion and the Jewel. And that is the impressive way in which the playwright describes each situation with matching words and phrases.
3. Imagery in The Lion and the Jewel
Additionally, the creative use of language in The Lion and the Jewel by the playwright creates images in the mind of the reader.
The adept description of characters and events in the play through the use of illustrative terms such as simile, metaphor and extended epithets creates pictorial impressions in the reader.
For instance, the Morning act of the play opens with the detailed description of Lakunle as a village teacher in a rough and over-sized cloth.
In the act of The Dance of the Lost Traveller too, the image of the four village girls acting as car wheels and that of Lakunle sitting in mid-air and pretending to be driving pops up in the mind of the reader.
The profound description of Baroka’s room and the sex wrestling act in his bedroom is also part of the imagery that the writer is able to create with his adept use of language and style in The Lion and the Jewel.