Figurative Expressions in THE LION AND THE JEWEL


A figure of speech is the use of language in a figurative or non-literal sense to provide emphasis, freshness of expression, clarity or in other cases, ambiguity between literal and non-literal interpretation.

Wole Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel is not lacking in the use of figures of speech. This artistic input is characterised by several instances of figurative expressions used to accentuate and effect the desired meaning. Some of the figures of speech employed in The Lion and the Jewel are antonomasia, periphrasis, personification, simile, metaphor, invective, hyperbole, aphorism, pleonasm, allusion, asteismus, rhetorical question, and alliteration.

Below are some of the figurative expressions in Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel:



The Lion and the Jewel
The title of the play is undoubtedly a figurative expression. It is a clear use of antonomasia. Antonomasia is a figure of speech in which an epithet, or the name of an office or dignity, is substituted for a proper name. In this context, “the Lion” is used for Baroka more like a title of office and “the Jewel” for Sidi because of her unmatched beauty. Throughout the text, Baroka is revered with “the Lion” title while Sidi is acknowledged or acknowledges herself as the village “jewel” on several occasions.


one-eyed box
This is a roundabout phrase used to refer to a camera. The people of Ilujinle are stark illiterates and could not have known the item is a camera. The figure of speech used here is periphrasis or circumlocution.

devil’s own horse
A roundabout expression for a motor-bike.


Personification is another figure of speech used in the text. Examples as found in the text include:

“That is what the stewpot said to the fire ...”
“... the sun himself had been your lover.”
“murderous roads”


Simile is also used in The Lion and the Jewel. Instances of simile in the play are:

“... you are as stubborn as an illiterate goat.”
“... look squashed like my pupils' drawings?”
“Sidi, my love will open your mind like the chaste leaf in the morning when the first sun touches it”
“chirrup like a cockatoo”
“smoother by far than the parrot's breast”
“. . . the water glistens on my face like the dew-moistened leaves on a Harmattan morning”
“his face is like a leather piece torn rudely from the saddle of his horse”
“Be sharp and sweet like the swift sting of a vicious wasp”
“Like a snake he came at me, like a rag he went back, a limp rag, smeared with shame”
“ran like fire through the lion's tail . . .”
“must every word leak out of you as surely as the final drops of mother's milk . . .”
“sulking like a slighted cockroach”
“a print of groundnuts stacked like pyramids”
“words are like beetles”
“whipped like a dog”
“she took off suddenly like a hunted buck”
“round-bellied as a full moon in a low sky”


Instances of metaphor in the play include:

“waters of my soul”
“feet of ignorance”
“The Fox of the Undergrowth”
“that panther of the trees”
“Sadiku of the honey tongue”
“I am the twinkle of a jewel”
“he is the hind-quarters of a lion!”
“was I not flame itself and he the flax on old women's spindles?”
“seven-horned devil of strength”
“Sadiku of the duiker feet”
“his frog-face croaked and croaked”
“snake-tongue lightning”


“What is a jewel to pigs? ... race of savages ...”
“Him? Pay no more heed to that than you would a eunuch.”
“What! The greedy dog! Insatiate camel of a foolish, doting race”
“Sadiku, my faithful lizard”
“The cunning frog”


“What I boast is known in Lagos, that city of magic ... where Saro women bathe in gold ...”
“my heart bursts into flowers with my love”
“I will stand against earth, heaven, and the nine hells . . .”
“Beauty beyond the dreams of a goddess”
“Loveliness beyond the jewels of a throne”
“To see him fizzle with the drabbest puff of a mis-primed ‘sakabula’”
“I could twist and untwist my waist with the smoothness of a water snake”


“If the snail finds splinters in his shell, he changes house.”
“A prophet has honour except in his home.”
“If the tortoise cannot tumble, it does not mean he can stand.”
“Until the finger nails have scraped the dust, no one can tell which insect released his bowels.”
”Old wine thrives best within a new bottle”
“The monkey sweats, it is only the hair upon his back which deceives the world”


“A savage custom, barbaric, outdated, rejected, denounced, accursed, excommunicated, archaic, degrading, humiliating, unspeakable, redundant. Retrogressive, remarkable, unpalatable.”


“And the man shall take the woman and the two shall be together as one flesh.”
“My Ruth, my Rachel, Esther, Bathsheba . . .”


Asteismus is a mocking answer or humorous answer that plays on a word.

Lakunle: A good morning to you sir.
Baroka: Guru morin guru morin, ngh-hn! That is
All we get from ‘alakowe’. You call at his house
Hoping he sends for beer, but all you get is
Guru morin. Will guru morin wet my throat?

Rhetorical Question

“Is a man's bedroom to be made naked to any flea that chances to wander through?”
“. . . would it be seemly . . . to be discovered in public thrusting fistfuls of corn and pepper in my mouth?”
“Is it not wise to indulge in the little masquerade of a dignified snuff-box?”


“rhyming rabble”

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