Civil Peace by Chinua Achebe Summary (Theme of the story)
This realistic short story “Civil Peace” has been written by a Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe. This story has presented the effects of the Nigerian Civil War on the people and also the ‘Civil Peace’ that followed. This story has presented the setting of Civil Peace in Eastern Nigeria after the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970). The Nigerian Civil War lasted for three years. Within those years, nearly millions died due to starvation.
This short story is about a Nigerian family who lived in Enugu, a place in Eastern Nigeria. This family had experienced the devastated Nigerian Civil War. The main character of this story is Jonathan Lwegbu, who is an optimistic person.
The main character Jonathan Lwegbu considered himself extraordinarily lucky. The miracle in his life was that he had come out of the war with five inestimable blessings. He, his wife, Maria, and three of their four children were alive. All of the five heads were safe in his family. The next miracle in his life as a bonus was his old bicycle which he got in fine condition after the war. When miracles took place in his life, he used to utter a phrase in wonder “Nothing puzzles God”. He almost lost his bicycle during the war, when an army officer attempted to commandeer it. Sensing a “certain lack of grip and firmness in his manner,” Jonathan guessed that the officer might a bribe in exchange for the bicycle. He saved his bicycle providing 2 pounds to the officer. After that, he buried his bicycle. After taking his bicycle out of the ground, started using his bicycle as a taxi. Within two weeks, he earned £115 through his taxi service.
Jonathan then travelled to Enugu, the capital city, in search of his house. He became quite surprised and delighted to find his house still standing, even though some nearby structures were reduced to a pile of rubble from the war. He examined his house and concluded that his house needed some repairs. So Jonathan immediately collected available materials: zinc, wood, and cardboard. He hired a carpenter to complete the housework.
After the completion of the repair, he moved his family members back home.
After their settlement, the entire family members worked hard to earn money and restore their lives. The children picked mangoes and Maria made Akara balls to sell in the neighbourhood. Jonathan used to work in the mines before the war. But when he realized that he couldn’t regain his job as a coal miner, Jonathan opened up a bar for the soldiers, which he ran out of his home. Jonathan was thankful to God that he had family members, a home and a job.
Facing a lot of hardships, Jonathan’s family did well, and then they even got a bonus from the government. The government started handing out egg rashers payments of twenty pounds in exchange for the Biafran money Nigerians turned over to the government’s treasury. Jonathan left office with his money in his pocket. He was quite worried about the thieves on his way home. At home that evening, Jonathan became restless and couldn’t get to sleep late at night. Finally, when he slept, he was awakened by a violent knock on the front door. He called out to ask who is knocking, and the reply came from the thieves.
Jonathan’s family called out for help from the police and the neighbours but no one came there to help them. Eventually, they stopped calling. The thieves called out then, repeating the families pleas for help. Jonathan and his family were in terror. The children and Maria were crying, Jonathan was groaning. The leader of the thieves spoke again, mockingly asking if he should call soldiers for help, but Jonathan said not to do so. The leader of the thieves demanded £100. They warned Jonathan to enter inside his house. Jonathan related his real condition to them. The voice trailed off, and a volley of automatic rifle fire burst through the air. Maria and the children started crying again. The leader told them not to cry. They just wanted some money and then they would go away.
Jonathan informed them about the money which he had got from the egg rasher. He even informed them that he didn’t have £100. He swore about having a total amount of 20 pounds in his house. The thieves agreed to accept that money. Some of the thieves mumbled that he had more money and they should move inside and look, the leader told them to shut up. Jonathan went to get the twenty pounds out of his locked box to give to the thieves. The thieves moved away from there after receiving the amount from Jonathan through the window. The next morning, the neighbours came over to commiserate with Jonathan, but his family wasn’t at home. They were at their day’s work. Jonathan told his sympathizers that the loss of 20 pounds is nothing; the week before he did not have the egg-rasher money, and he didn’t want to depend on it. The money went on easily from his hands, as did many other things in the war.