Civil Peace by Chinua Achebe: Summary | Questions and Answers | Class 11 English



Civil Peace by Chinua Achebe: Summary |  Questions and Answers | Class 11 English
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Civil Peace by Chinua Achebe: Summary |  Questions and Answers | Class 11 English

Civil Peace by Chinua Achebe


Note: Add this introduction to your answers to the exam.

This realistic short story 'Civil Peace' was written by Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe. This story was written in the year 1971. The story revolves around a Nigerian family residing in Enugu, eastern Nigeria, who endured the devastating effects of the Nigerian Civil War. This story has presented the effects of the Nigerian Civil War on the people and also the 'Civil Peace' that followed. The main themes in the story are optimism, struggle, survival, acceptance etc.

Table of Contents


Civil Peace by Chinua Achebe

akara balls (n.): deep fried balls of ground beans

amenable (adj.): responsive, open

anini (n.): a small Nigerian coin worth less than one cent

Biafran (n.): of the rebellious southeastern region of Nigeria, which declared itself the 
independent Republic of Biafra in the Civil War of 1967

biro (n.): British expression for ‘ballpoint pen’

commandeer (v.): to seize for military use

commiserate (v.): sympathize with or show sorrow for

demijohn (n.): a large bottle with a short neck

destitute (adj.): lacking the basic necessities of life’ poverty-stricken

disreputable (adj.): not respectable; having or deserving a bad reputation

dissent (n.): disagreement; refusal to accept a common opinion

edifice (n.): a building, especially a large, important-looking one

Enugu (n.): a city in southeastern Nigeria

fortnight (n.): British English for ‘two weeks’

katakata (n.): (Nigerian English dialect) confusion, trouble

Na tief-man… hopen de door (dialect): I am a thief of my accomplices. Open the 

raffia bag (n.): a bag woven from the fibers of the raffia palm tree


Civil Peace by Chinua Achebe

Name: Chinua Achebe

Nationality: Nigerian

Date of Birth: November 16, 1930

Birth Place: Ogidi, Nigeria

Death: 21 March 2013 (82) Boston, Massachusetts, America

He was a poet, novelist, professor and critic.


▪︎   Things Fall Apart

▪︎    No Longer at Ease

▪︎    A Man of the People

▪︎    Anthills of the Savannah

▪︎    Arrow of God


Civil Peace by Chinua Achebe

This realistic short story "Civil Peace" has been written by Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe. This story was written in the year 1971.

This story is about a Nigerian family who lived in Enugu, a place in eastern Nigeria. This family had experienced the devastated Nigerian Civil War.

This story has presented the effects of the Nigerian Civil War on the people and also the 'Civil Peace' that followed. 


Civil Peace by Chinua Achebe

This story has presented the setting of civil peace in eastern Nigeria after the Nigerian Civil War (1967–1971). The Nigerian Civil War lasted for three years. Within those years, nearly millions of people died due to starvation.


Civil Peace by Chinua Achebe

Here in this story, "Civil Peace" by Chinua Achebe, we find various themes such as gratitude, optimism, struggle, survival, resilience, and acceptance.


Civil Peace by Chinua Achebe

▪︎   We should be optimistic in every situation.

▪︎   Hard work always leads us towards fruitful consequences.

▪︎   Optimism and dedication towards responsibilities are so valuable for all.


Civil Peace by Chinua Achebe

Jonathan Iwegbu:

Jonathan Iwegbu is the main protagonist of the story "Civil Peace." Jonathan is defined as a man of optimism and resilience, even in the face of great tragedy. Despite the devastation of the Civil War, Jonathan celebrates what he has instead of regretting what he has lost. For example, he gives thanks for the lives of his wife and three surviving children rather than mourning the son he has buried.Jonathan is not only optimistic but also a very hardworking guy. Instead of waiting for the situation to change, he starts doing several businesses. By the end of the story, he remains focused on the future. Even when his ex-gratia is snatched by thieves, he tells sympathetic neighbours that he "counts it as nothing" and continues to work.



Maria Iwegbu:

Maria is Jonathan's wife. She is quite hard-working by nature. After the Civil War, she begins making Akara balls to sell to neighbours. The morning after the robbery, she also joined her husband in focusing on work.

Thief Leader:

The thief leader in the story arrives at the door of Jonathan along with his group in the evening. He seems extremely confident. He announces himself a thief and mocks at the time when the family cries for help. He even offers Jonathan's family members to call for soldiers after the police and neighbours fail to answer.

The army officer:

During the war, this army officer confiscated Jonathan's bike for military purposes but later accepted a bribe in place of the bike. In a tattered uniform and possessing a “certain lack of grip and firmness in his manner," the officer represents the untrustworthiness and incompetence of authority during the time of civil peace in Nigeria.


Civil Peace by Chinua Achebe

The main character of this story is Jonathan Lwegbu, who is an optimistic person.The main character Jonathan Iwegbu 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 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 accept 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 off the ground, he started using it 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 it needed some repairs. So Jonathan immediately collected the 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 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 realised 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 the 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 was 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 family’s pleas for help. Jonathan and his family were in terror. The children and Maria were crying, and 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 not to enter 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 he had gotten from the egg rasher. He even informed them that he didn’t have £100. He swore about having a total 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, but 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 sympathisers 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.


Civil Peace by Chinua Achebe

The story starts in eastern Nigeria after the end of the Nigerian Civil War. The main protagonist, Jonathan, considers himself extraordinarily lucky because he has come out of the war with five inestimable blessings. Except for his youngest son, all heads are safe in his family.
Whenever a miracle happens in his life, he often says, 'Nothing puzzles God'. He gets his bicycle back from the underground in fine condition and converts it into a taxi. Within two weeks, he earned 115 pounds through his taxi service.
He moves towards his homeland, Enugu, in search of his house. He is quite surprised to see his house standing, whereas other structures are completely demolished.
His house needs some repairs. Jonathan manages some essential materials around and makes his house look like a home again with the help of a carpenter. He moves his family into the repaired house. The entire family works hard to earn money and restore their lives. His children pick mangoes to sell to the soldiers' wives. His wife, Maria, makes Akara balls to sell to their neighbours. Jonathan starts a bar after realising that he can't regain his old job as a miner. He decides to run the bar for soldiers out of his house.
He gets a favour of 20 pounds from the government in exchange for Biafran currency. But the group of thieves demands money from him. They take money from him and move away. After that, life runs on as usual for Jonathan.



Civil Peace by Chinua Achebe

a. Do you think there would be complete peace after the war?


No, I don't think there would be complete peace after the war. The effects of the war would remain for a long time. It takes a long time for a change.

b. If a disaster occurred, what would you save to ensure your “happy survival”? 


If a disaster occurred, I would save my family members and relatives to ensure my "happy survival." My family and relatives mean a lot to me.

c. If someone stole something from you out of very few possessions, how would you feel? Would you accept the loss or get angry?


I would feel very angry if someone stole something from me out of my very few possessions. I would try to regain my loss through various means.

a. Why did Jonathan think of himself as 'extraordinarily lucky'?


Jonathan thought of himself as 'extraordinarily lucky' because he experienced various miracles in his life. The main miracle in his life was the 'happy survival' of his family members.

b. What are the ‘five blessings’ for which Jonathan is grateful?


The 'five blessings' for which Jonathan is grateful are: his head, his wife Maria's head, and the heads of three out of their four children. He is too delighted to find his family members safe even after the war.

c. Why did Jonathan mistrust the officer who wanted to take his bicycle? What does this tell you about the situation in Nigeria?


Jonathan mistrusted the officer who wanted to take his bicycle because the officer easily accepted a bribe in exchange for his bicycle. Jonathan knew about his character through his acts of gripping the bicycle. This tells us that the situation in Nigeria was so bad where government officials were corrupt and expected their profit from the citizens in the name of the law.

d. What visitors might be at the door? Are Jonathan and his wife completely surprised? Explain.


The knock at the door is heard late at night. When Jonathan calls out to ask about the visitors, he gets a reply from the visitors. So the visitors might be thieves who have come so late at night to rob money. Yes, Jonathan and his wife are completely surprised. They even become fearful because they haven't been awakened so late at night in such a way before.

e. Why does no one in the neighbourhood respond when the thieves pound on Jonathan’s door? Why do the thieves call for the police?


When Jonathan's family learns about the arrival of thieves, they become quite fearful. Being panicked, they yell out for neighbours and police, expecting help from their side. But no one comes there for their help because the neighbours are also feeling the same terror as Jonathan's family members. They are also panic-stricken due to the presence of thieves. Hearing Jonathan's family yell for help, the thieves also mockingly support Jonathan's family by calling out for police. They know very well that no one will come there to support Jonathan's family.

a. What does Jonathan mean by his expression “Nothing puzzles God”? What does this expression reveal about his character? Explain by citing details from the story.


In the story "Civil Peace," Jonathan uses the expression "nothing puzzles God "whenever something miraculous happens with him. He uses this line when he gets his bicycle back in fine condition off the ground. Next, he uses it when he finds his house still standing after the war. By "nothing puzzles God," he means that anything can happen, but almighty God, being omniscient, is not surprised or even puzzled by anything. He means to say that God knows everything. The last time he uses it is at the end of the story, after his family is robbed of the ex-gratia.



This expression reveals that he is a quite optimistic person who has a keen belief in the almighty God. He feels too delighted to have miracles in his life. This expression also reveals that he is a good person who enjoys everything he has but never laments about his losses.

b. How does Jonathan change as he experiences the conflicts in his life? Explain.


Jonathan changes according to his optimistic feelings about his life and family. He experiences many conflicts in his life, but the miracles and struggles in his life for happy survival mean a lot to him. He keeps on doing his best to uplift his family's lives while being faithful to God.

c. Read the extract and answer the questions below.

“To God who made me; if you come inside and find one hundred pounds, take it and shoot me and shoot my wife and children. I swear to God. The only money I have in this life is this twenty pounds egg-rasher they gave me today ...”

i. Who is the speaker?


The speaker is the main character, Jonathan Iwegbu.

ii. Who is the speaker talking to?


The speaker is talking to the leader of the thieves.

iii. Who does “they” refer to?


"They" refer to the government officials who are in the department of the government's treasury.

d. Nigerian English has words like soja 'soldier' and katakata 'confusion', 'trouble' derived apparently from English words but transformed by native languages' phonologies. What does the author’s use of dialect here add to the story?


I think that the author's use of dialect here adds a unique image to differentiate the protagonist from the thieves outside his door. Their dialect is also used to create authentic Nigerian characters; the slang used in the second half reflects the English of Southeastern Nigeria.

e. Why do you think the thieves who come to rob Jonathan speak English with a heavier African accent than Jonathan does?


Jonathan's English indicates a significant education, while the thieves' use of slang indicates their relative ignorance. Their dialect is also used to create authentic Nigerian characters; the slang used in the second half reflects the English of Southeastern Nigeria.

f. The title of the story "Civil Peace" itself is ironical as there is little to differentiate ‘civil peace’ from ‘civil war’. Do you think that the title of this story is appropriate, or would “Civil War” have been a better title? Explain.


The title of Chinua Achebe's short story "Civil Peace” is especially interesting because it is used in an ironic sense. The title of the story is ironic because, even though the war had come to an end, the area was still chaotic and filled with strife. No, I don't think the title of this story is appropriate. Yes, civil war would have been a better title because we find chaos, fear, hardships, and the war in this story.

a. How would you describe the civil peace in Nigeria?


In my opinion, the civil peace that had come after the end of the civil war in Nigeria was merely so-called. The environment during that time was so fearful. People were not safe. People had to live a fearful life, facing many hardships.

b. What kind of attitude towards life do you think you would have if your situation was similar to that of Jonathan’s?


If my situation were similar to Jonathan's, I would have similar optimism about my life and my family. I would try to do hard labour while keeping faith in God for the welfare of my relatives. I would try to be quite away from violence.

c. Draw the character sketch of Jonathan Iwegbu.


Jonathan is a quite optimistic person who has keen faith in God. He always utters a line in the name of God, saying, 'Nothing puzzles, God'. He becomes quite delighted to find miracles in his life. He never lives in disparity. He is a hard-working person who thinks positively of everyone. He loves his family members very much. In times of hardship, he tries to save his family first. During the time of civil peace, he worked so hard to restore the Treasury, and in exchange, they gave him 20 pounds of legitimate currency. He even doesn't lament his loss at last.

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