Civil Peace. One rarely hears those two words together. It is usually either Civil War, or perhaps Civil Chaos, but rarely is it Civil Peace. This is because it is not the times of peace that are remembered, but the times of war. It is during these times that people truly shine as the need arises or are exposed for their truer, more evil selves. Like Jamie Sullivan said in A Walk to Remember, "There would be no compassion without suffering." Chinua Achebe's Civil Peace is a story about going through hardships and never forgetting what is most important.
Civil Peace is set in the early 1970's in the country of Nigeria. There had been a civil war in the late 1960's that had had a devastating effect on the country. When the civil war had begun, the country's armed forces were totally unprepared and untrained, so for the first couple years of the war, the country was in turmoil. It wasn't until the government was able to reconcile their forces and produce a considerable army that the unrest was brought to a halt. Civil Peace takes place right after the war, when the citizens of Nigeria begin their attempt to rebuild their country.
Jonathan Iwegbu, the main character in this story, is one of those citizens. He acknowledges that the war is over and begins to do his part in reconstruction. He is a religious man and is quite thankful for what he has, and as little as that may be, he still considers himself lucky. He is the head of his family which includes his wife, Maria, and his three children, all of which support him in what he does. The other major character in this story is the leader of the thieves' gang that calls on Jonathan's family. He is the agonist, the problem, the main conflict in this story. And just as Jonathan's family support him, the other members of the thieves' gang support their leader.
The narrator of this story is unknown. In rereading the story, one could guess that the narrator is in fact Jonathan himself in later years, recalling his past from a third-person point of view, which is presented as a possibility when the narrator states "But nothing puzzles God," something that Jonathan often says. Perhaps the narrator is a friend of Jonathan's, because the way in which the story is narrated suggests that the narrator's thinking is much like Jonathan's thinking. Nonetheless, who the narrator is isn't necessarily important, but what they are saying is. In retrospect, one could say that it is not necessarily the events of the story that teach the theme and lesson of the story, but instead the way in which they are described by the narrator.
This story begins with Jonathan taking an inventory of his blessings. These blessings include his own life, his wife's life, the life of three out of four of his children (one presumably died in the war), and his bicycle. The way in which the narrator tells of these blessings gives the reader foreshadowing into the meaning of this story: "As a bonus he also had his old bicycle - a miracle too but naturally not to be compared to the safety of five human heads." The narrator then goes into a side-story about the history of that bicycle to take the reader back in time to lead up to the main conflict. The bicycle had been commandeered by the military, bought back by Jonathan, buried where Jonathan's youngest son was buried, then dug up a year later and it was still working. Then, he had used it to ferry camp officials and their families for a price, which made him 115 pounds within a period of two weeks. After that, Jonathan took his family to Enugu, where he found yet another blessing. He found his small house built of mud blocks still standing, while the neighboring large concrete houses had been turned to rubble. Here again, the narrator helps to keep it all in the right perspective: "But, needless to say, even that monumental blessing must be accounted also totally inferior to the five heads in the family."
After reconstructing a few broken windows and a...
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