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Civil Peace

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This Wiki discusses Nigerian author Chinua Achebe's "Civil Peace," from his short story collection Girls at War and Other Stories.

Chinua Achebe

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About the Author

He was born in Ogidi, Nigeria. He completed college in Nigeria and received his B.A. at London University.

Chinua Achebe’s short story, “Civil Peace” takes place after the Nigerian Civil War which lasted approximately thirty months. May 30, 1967, three Eastern states formed the Republic of Biafra which the Nigerian government responded to as an act of rebellion. By July, the fighting became a full-blown war in which about a million civilians died. The Biafran troops gained international support but in the end lacked the resources and organization to defeat the federal troops. By December 24, 1969 only two out of the original twelve provinces that formed the state of Biafra remained in the republic. January 15, 1970 the Biafran state formally surrendered.

“Civil peace,” begins with the protagonist, Jonathan Iwegbu, living in a military camp dealing with the aftermath of the war. He and his family then move to the capital of the defeated state of Biafra, Enugu, and attempt to cope with the hardships created in the aftermath of the war. He starts his new life with minimal money but optimistically puts his family to work in order to make a living. He also deals with the crime and anarchy that faces him after the civil war in the anarchy of “civil peace.”

Plot Summary

A year after the Nigerian civil war, Jonathan Iwegbu and his family have remained positive despite the loss of their youngest son in the war. Jonathan and his wife Maria scrounge around for what work they can find to make ends meet. Jonathan works taxiing wealthy officials and their families, and his wife works making food and drinks for soldiers and "other lucky people with good money." When he returns to his home in Enugu after remaining for a year at a camp, he finds that his house is still standing despite the bombings. Jonathan receives twenty pounds of ex gratia money because the government changed the currency after the war.

That night, robbers awake Jonathan in the middle of the night to take his ex gratia money. They demand 100 pounds from outside the window. Jonathan asks what they want with a man as poor as he is, so the robbers come inside to search for money. He only has the twenty pounds he'd received earlier that day, so they take that. The robbery does not bother Jonathan, and the next day, he and his family go on with their normal activities.

Characters

There are two main characters in "Civil Peace:" Jonathan Iwegbu and the thieves. Jonathan's optimism allows him to recover from the war, during this time of "Civil Peace." The first main instance where he shows this optimism is when he counts his "five inestimable blessings - his head, his wife Maria's head, and the heads of three of their four children" (82); instead of mourning the loss of one child, he thinks of everyone who is alive. Once again, his optimism prevails when he goes to the city to forage for goods to repair his house before everyone else. Later, he opens a bar, getting new employment rather than dwelling over the fact that his former job, mining coal, is no longer available. At the end of the story, some of his money is stolen; however, despite the fact that his neighbors sympathize with him, he moves on with his daily activities.

The thieves come to Jonathan's house to rob him. Their heavy dialects indicate their ignorance, which is especially obvious when Jonathan speaks clearly. They are desperate people due to the war. Because of the civil peace, they can rob easily to get money.

Work Ethic

In the story "Civil Peace" work ethic plays a significant role. Work ethic is depicted as a vitality. As seen in "Civil Peace" work ethic is something that is always there when everything else around you falls apart, as it did for Johnathan Iwegbu. Johnathan's work ethic deemed important after the war with the burden of supporting his family. Without his work ethic, he would be unable to keep his optomistic attitude towards life.

Law and Justice

Law and justice within Civil Peace is not present. Biafra and Enugu are plagued by theives, corrupt soldiers, and a lack of control. AFter the Civil War, even though it is called a time of "Civil Peace", the violence that exists has not changed or disappeared. The Biafran government had been destroyed after the civil war. With its absence, illegal activities and breaking the law became commonplace. When people did break the law, they were punished for their actions. The police and soldiers did not enforce justice within Eastern Nigeria. Instead they reeinforced the lack of justice by committing acts like when the soldier attempted to take the bike from Jonathan. The inattention to the law remained in Enugu whether or not the war was over.

Since laws no longer had meaning to the Nigerians, justice is ridiculed when attempted to be enforced. For example, when Johnathan and his family cry out for help, "Police-o! Thieves-o! Neighbours-o!" (86), the theives laugh at them and mock them, helping them cry out during the night. They dismiss the calls of the Iwegbu family because they know no one will respond. The neighbours turn a blind eye to the robbery and police officers don't lend their aid. In "Civil Peace" law simply does not exist in the corrupt Nigerian country.

Setting

Setting in the novel, affects the protagonist Jonathan in the sense of who he is and how he lives his life. The country side, or the camp in which Johnathan and his family live, affects him in the sense that he had more hardships than he would in the city. Even the home made out of mud brick in the city was better than living in a camp. In the camp, he was able to earn a living by shuttling officers to and from the tarred road to the camp. However, they were not gifted by running water and robbers stole from their well-beings. In the city, he and his family were gifted with running water. Because of the hustle and bustle in the city, more jobs were available for the taking. However, in the camp, his fellow coal miners were left unemployed and scrounging for food and shelter.

Point of View

The point of view is third person which restricts the reader from understanding other points of view. The reader is unaware of the opinions, feelings and hardships of his family members, who play a significant role in his life. Through this point the reader is able to infer that he is very optimistic and other characteristics. Point of view is very important.

Dialogue and Dialect

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This page was last modified on 16 May 2010, at 17:56.
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