It is worthy of note to mention that
discourse on Oscar Wilde’s The Importance
of Being Earnest and Wole Soyinka’s The
Lion and the Jewel usually tend to be focused on their social relevance,
with much emphasis being placed on the surface meaning of the texts rather than
their structural depth. Modern critics, unlike Akwanya and Chukwumezie, are apt
to ascribe The Lion and the Jewel to
the confrontation between the old and new generation without focusing on the
plot structure of the work itself.
In “Dying and Restoration in Oscar
Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and
Wole Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel” we
see that effort has been made to ascribe The
Importance of Being Earnest with the tradition of new comedy while The Lion and the Jewel is said to share
similarities of the old comedy. But the two plays are said to share a common
feature of marriage, which is always a repeated pattern in comedy.
However, in The Lion and the Jewel, it is true that Baroka tries to create his
own world in the teeth of strong opposition which Lakunle represents, but
Akwanya and Chukwumezie were not able to tell us that, at the point of ritual
death, Lakunle finally becomes excluded from his society. Frye states in Anatomy of Criticism that while tragedy
tends to exclude, comedy tends to include. But we see clearly in The Lion and the Jewel that Lakunle is
rather excluded than included.
Lakunle tries to create or construct
a society like that of Ibadan or Lagos in Ilujinle but his effort and views
prove not sufficient enough to impose itself. His illusion is thwarted by a
superior reality when Sidi rebuffs him and chooses Baroka for a husband.
We see much interest being placed on
Sidi in Akwanya and Chukwumezie whereas in comedy, like Frye states, interest
in comedy is “so often focused on the defeated characters, (for) comedy
regularly illustrates a victory of arbitrary plot over consistency of
character” (Anatomy of Criticism 170).
Sidi’s marriage to Baroka at the end of the play may represent a symbolic form
of rejuvenation of life but for Lakunle who is defeated and embarrassed, it
symbolizes a tragic vision. There is a tendency of this play being interpreted
as a tragedy, if we see it from Lakunle’s perspective. Comedy is supposed to
leave everyone happy at the end but not for Lakunle. He is alienated. Even
though he does not leave Ilujinle, he does not belong there.
Akwanya, Nicholas et
al. “Dying and Restoration in Oscar Wild’s The
Earnest and Wole Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel”. IOSR-JHSS Vol.
Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism. New
York: Atheneum, 1970. Print.
Soyinka, Wole. The Lion and the Jewel. London:
Oxford University Press, 1963.