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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Styles and Techniques in The Lion and the Jewel

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In this post, focus is on the styles and dramatic techniques in The Lion and the Jewel by Wole Soyinka. We discuss how the author is able to dwell on the themes through the profound use of figures if speech.

As we already know, the themes in the play are picked from the dramatisation of the characters in the play.

Similarly, the playwright is able to address these themes in the Lion and the Jewel by deploying some literary styles and techniques.

Of course, some of the styles and dramatic techniques in The Lion and the Jewel include Subplot, Metaphor, Symbolism, Allusion, Flashback, Irony, Hyperbole etc.

Below, these literary techniques shall be discussed adequately.

Styles and Dramatic Techniques in the Lion and the Jewel

Here are the styles and techniques in The Lion and the Jewel

1. Subplot

Wole Soyinka makes use of a literary device called “subplot” in The Lion and the Jewel”. This dramatic technique does not only show his creativity but also adds to the rich plot of the play text.

The Dance of the Lost Traveller in Wole Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel is an example of a subplot. It can also be referred to as an inlet or “play within a play.”

Here, Lakunle embodies a new character rather than the village school teacher we use to know. He plays the role of the Traveller while 4 village girls form the “wheels” of his imaginary car.

A youth is also asked to act as Snake. Sidi is also featured as a village girl while Baroka and the villagers maintain their initial roles. Interestingly, all of them embody their given characters well by playing their roles impressively. 

Soon, the play ends and the main plot of The Lion and the Jewel continues.

But if there is one major takeaway from this subplot in the play, it is the creative ability of the playwright to invoke laughter in the reader through the events dramatised in the Dance of the Lost Traveller.

2. Metaphor

A noticeable figure of speech used in Wole Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel is Metaphor. This element runs through the play, thus attaching secondary meaning to the items they represent.

An example of metaphor in The Lion and the Jewel is the title of the play text itself. Two metaphors can be deducted from it: “the Lion” and “the Jewel.”

In the context of the play, “lion” does not mean animal, neither does “jewel” mean a beauty item as in their literal terms. Instead, they refer to Baroka and Sidi respectively. Interestingly, when we we study the characterisation of Baroka and Sidi closely, we realise that the metaphors used to describe their roles fit them perfectly.

While Baroka, by his nature possess a deep voice, super wrestling strength and wields authority and power in the Ilujinle, Sidi is known as the most beautiful damsel—”village belle”—and most sought-after girl in the village.

Obviously, these metaphors—”the lion” and “the jewel” represent the idea of the power of the traditional king (Baroka) and the most beautiful girl (Sidi) that Wole Soyinka portrays in the play text.

Again, this brings to mind the factor of “naming” in the process of creating characters for specific roles in a play. This is because, the reader has a clue to the expected role of a character just by hearing or seeing their name.

3. Symbolism/Motif in The Lion and the Jewel.

Similarly, Wole Soyinka makes us of symbolism to explain certain concepts and ideas in The Lion and the Jewel.

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He does not only use symbols or situations to achieve this effect successfully, but he also uses symbolic characters to achieve this style and dramtic technique in The Lion and the Jewel.

Now, let’s examine some examples of symbolism in the the Lion and the Jewel, and what they mean.

  • The Baruka Statue

The statue of Baruka is a good example of symbolism in The Lion and the Jewel. It represents masculinity, authority and power.

As the traditional ruler of Ilujinle, Baroka has supremacy over every inhabitant of the land. And, this is seen in the actions of the character.

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Also, given the physical description of Baroka, his physique is strong, bold and masculine. He also possesses a deep voice that makes people shiver and tremble.

Winning a wrestling contest at old age against a a youth that full of life and strength is also one of the masculine attributes that the Baroka Statue symbolise.

  • The “One-Eyed Box”

In the morning (act 1), when the village girl comes to announce the arrival of the stranger that comes with a photo album of images he took with his lens, the girl describes his camera as “one-eyed box.”

Literally, “one-eyed box” refers to the Photographer/Stranger’s camera in The Lion and the Jewel. This description is perfect because it illustrates how a camera man closes his eyes partially when he tries to view or focus on his image through a narrow lens.

Contextually, however, the “one-eyed box” is a symbol of modernity in The Lion and the Jewel. It represents modern inventions through science and technology.

  • The “Devil Horse”

In the play, the villagers call the Traveller’s motorbike “the devil’s own horse.” This teasing is understandable because it looks very strange to them.

The people of Ilujinle have no other phrase to describe the Traveller’s motorcycle than “devil horse” because it has two legs/ wheels (rubber tyres) like a horse. Interestingly, it is also used as a means of transportation.

But apart from the amusement and wonder about the Traveller’s motorbike, Wole Soyinka uses the “Devil Horse” to symbolise civilisation and modernization in African traditional society.

  • The “Imaginary Car” of the Lost Traveller

Another use of symbolism that adds to the styles and dramatic techniques in The Lion and the Jewel is the “imaginary car” of the lost Traveller.

As explained earlier, The Dance of the Lost Traveller is a subplot in the play. Here, Lakunle plays the role of the Traveller, while the 4 village girls improvise the Traveller’s car (wheels).

As dramatised in the play, the village girls knee down and act as the car wheel while Lakunle sits in the air and pretends to drive. He pretends to restart the car but the engine does not respond.

Soon, Lakunle gets frustrated with the “car” and gets down to adjust the “wheels”. Still, to no avail. He later abandons it and decides to trek for the rest of the journey.

Here, the non-response of the “car” and the “wheels” (village girls) symbolises the stagnation and the complacency of Ilujinle in Traditionalism.

It could also mean their unwillingness to the growth and development that civilisation bring.

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4. Flashback

Additionally, the playwright makes use of the flashback technique in The Lion and the Jewel. This is to intimate the readers with certain issues in the play. According to definition, a flashback is a dramatic technique that is used to recount the memory of an event that happened in an earlier scene.

Through the characters, the playwright flashes back to certain events in the Play text. For instance, Lakunle flashes back to the time when Baroka stops the construction of railway tracks in Ilujinle.

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This singular technique reveals more about Baroka as an “enemy” of progress and civilisation as Lakunle describes him. Hence, Flashback is among the figures of speech in the play.

5. Allusion in The Lion and the Jewel

The Use of Allusion is very profound in The Lion and the Jewel by Wole Soyinka. In the play, some of the characters alludes to some Bible Characters and African deities.

While trying to convince Sidi about his love for her, Lakunle takes analogy from the Bible. For instance, he quotes directly from Genesis:

"And the man shall take the woman
and the two shall be together
as one flesh." [page 8]

Another example of flashback is when Lakunle tries to woo Sidi by calling her the names of some female characters in the Bible like Ruth, Rachael, Bathsheba, etc.

In a similar point of view, the playwright alludes to some African gods in the text through the characters. The apparent mentioning of Yoruba deities such as Sango, Obatala points to allusion as a major dramatic technique that the author employs in the playtext.

6. The Use of Irony in The Lion and the Jewel

Basically, Irony is simply the opposite of what is meant by either by words or action. Typically, The Lion and the Jewel is replete with several ironies.

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This technique runs through the plot of the play text so that the audience sees the folly of the characters which often provokes laughter in their mind.

Below, we are going to discuss two types of irony used in The Lion and the Jewel: dramatic irony and situational irony.

  • Dramatic Irony

When we talk about dramatic irony, we mean a situation whereby a character in a play is not aware of a situation that the audience knows about.

An example of dramatic irony in The Lion and the Jewel is when Sadiku thinks that Baroka has truly lost his manhood.

As expected, she leaks the secret she should keep to Sidi who also believes it immediately. In the long run, Baroka outsmarts the women and achieves his aim of marrying Sidi.

Another instance is when Lakunle thinks that Sidi is preparing to marry him but It later turns out she is going to marry Baroka.

  • Situational Irony

There are several situations in the play that the direct opposite of an expected outcome is what happens.

For instance, it is ironic for an old man that is spent like Baroka outsmarts youthful Lakunle.

Similarly, Sidi receives the biggest shock of her life when she realises that Baroka is not impotent. It turns out that the manhood she has gone to mock cost her virginity.

7. Humour in The Lion and the Jewel

As a comedy, The Lion and the Jewel thrives on Humour. Soyinka manages to infuse laughter into the appearances, dialogues and actions of the characters.

For instance, Lakunle looks very funny in his over-sized cloth and rough shoes.

Also, in The Dance of the Traveller, two scenes invoke laughter in the reader. One, the moment Lakunle drives sits in the air and pretends to be driving a car.

Two, the moment he falls into the stream while trying to take a picture of the beautiful village girl (Sidi).

Sever other laughable scenes in the play includes the folly of Sadiku and Sidi after believe the false narrative that Baroka is impotent.

Therefore, given the above scenes and the effective use of humour, we can say that The Lion and the Jewel is a comedy.

Summary of Dramatic Techniques in The Lion and the Jewel

  1. Subplot
  2. Metaphor
  3. Symbolism
  4. Flashback
  5. Allusion
  6. Irony
  7. Humour


In this post, we have been able to examine some of the styles and techniques in The Lion and the Jewel.

We considered literary styles and techniques such as subplot, metaphor, symbolism, allusion, flashback, irony and humour as important elements in the play text.

In my next post, I will be discussing the use of poetic language style and cultural elements such as proverbs and songs deployed in this Wole Soyinka’s play text.

If you found this article helpful, we will like to hear your feedback in the comment section below. You can also notify us of any text you want us to review next.

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