People in the story
- Janathan Iwegbu
- Maria Iwegbu
- Thief Leader
- Thief Chorus
- The Army Officer
- The Robbery Victim
The story ‘Civil Peace’ is set in the aftermath of the Nigerian Civil War. It is about the effects of the Nigeraian Civil War on the people, and the ‘Civil Peace’ that followed. Nigeria became an independent nation from the British colony in 1960. The Nigerian Civil War began in 1967 when the Igbo try to separate from Nigeria to form the independent Republic of Biafra. After enduring three years of bloody battles, the Ibo were forced to surrender in 1970, ending the war. Biafrans suffered a severe famine due to the effect of war. Nearly a million people died of starvation.
Jonathan Iwegbu has survived the Nigerian Civil War along with his wife and three of his four children, and thus considers himself “extraordinarily lucky”. He also treasures his still-working bicycle, which he buried during the war to ensure it would not be stolen. Another apparent miracle is his still-standing home, which he repairs and reoccupies after returning home to the capital city of Enugu. To explain both his good and bad fortune to himself and others, he often repeats a phrase: “Nothing puzzles God.”
Jonathan works hard in the aftermath of the war, using his bicycle to start a taxi service and opening a bar for soldiers. His family mirrors his example, cooking food and picking fruit for sale. Since the coal mine where Jonathan worked before the war has not reopened, this resilience is crucial towards securing even their minor comfort.
One day, after turning over rebel currency, Jonathan is given an award of 20 pounds. He takes care not to be robbed, remembering a theft he observed several days earlier, in which a man broke down in public over the indignity.
That night, a group of thieves knocks on his door demanding money. Frightened, the family calls for the neighbors and police, but the heavy silence when they finish reminds them that nobody looks out for anyone but himself. The thieves then mock them, crying out even louder to indicate how helpless the family is.
The thief leader demands 100 pounds, promising not to hurt Jonathan or his family if he cooperates. Eventually, Jonathan realizes their lack of options, and gives the thieves the 20 pounds of reward money so they will leave the family unharmed. Some thieves insist they should search the house for more, but the thief leader believes this is all Jonathan has, and accepts it.
The next morning, Jonathan and the family are back at work as the neighbors arrive. Sensing their confusion over his ability to toss off the situation of the night before, Jonathan explains to his neighbors that the reward money cannot compare to what he lost in the war. He chooses to focus on his work in the present rather than regret what has happened, since “Nothing puzzles God.”
Understanding the text
Answer the following questions.
- Why did Jonathan think of himself as ‘extraordinarily lucky’?
In the story, Jonathan thought himself is extraordinary lucky because he and his family with his house were saved in the Nigerian war. Moreover, he got his bicycle back and could repair his house cheaply.
- What are the ‘five blessings’ for which Jonathan is grateful?
The “five inestimable blessings” were his head, his wife Maroa’s head and the heads of 3 out of their four children for which Jonathan is very grateful.
- 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 bribe exchange of his bicycle. He knew about the character of the officer through his acts of gripping the bicycle. This tells us that the situation in Nigeria was so worse where government officers were are also corrupted who expected their profit from the citizens in the name of the law. Hence, Jonathan mistrusts the officer because he was not confident in saying. It tells about the lack of trust because of War and poverty and lack of peace in Nigeria.
- What visitors might be at the door? Are Jonathan and his wife completely surprised? Explain.
The Knock at the door is hard late at night. When Jonathan calls out to access about the visitors, he gets the reply from the visitors. So the visitors might be that keeps who have come so late at night to rob money. Jonathan and his wife were completely surprised. They even become fearful because they haven’t been awake and so late at night in such a way before.
- Why does no one in the neighbourhood respond when the thieves pound on Jonathan’s door? Why do the thieves call for the police?
Yes, No one in the neighbourhood responds when the thieves pound on Jonathan’s door because the neighbours were also feeling the same terror or fear as Jonathan’s family members.The thieves called for the police because they knew very well that no one will come to support Jonathan’s family.
Reference to the context
- 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 this expression “Nothing puzzles God” whenever something miraculous happens with him. He uses this line when he gets his bicycle back in a fine condition out of 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 and even possible by anything. He means to say that God knows each and everything. The last time he uses it at the end of the story after his family is robbed of the ex-gratia. This expression reveals, shows, depicts, represents that he is quite an optimistic person who has been a belief of Almighty God. He feels too delighted to get miracles in his life. This expression also reveals that he is a good person who enjoys everything he has but never laments on his losses.
Therefore, His character was optimistic hopeful nature to believe in God and thinks that there will be good for tomorrow.
- How does Jonathan change as he experiences the conflicts in his life? Explain.
Jonathan is a hardworking person who believes in his hard labour as well as god the most. He is quite an optimistic person who never loses his hope. He has experienced many conflicts in his life. He has lost his child during the war but he believes himself lucky to get 5 inestimable blessings. Jonathan keeps on doing his hard labour for the sake and welfare of his family keeping faith or believes in God. He changes according to the demands of the time and his own family needs.
- 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 …”
- Who is the speaker?
The speaker was Jonathon.
- Who is the speaker talking to?
The speaker is talking to the thieves or robbers.
- Who does “they” refer to?
“They” refers to the government.
- 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?
Nigerian English has words like Soja “soldier” and katakata “confusion”, “trouble” delivered apparently from English words but transformed by Native language phonologies.The author added dialects here in the story because of the following points:
- To focus on the native language;
- To promote the dialects;
- To know the status of living people in Nigeria and,
- To promote the nationality.
- Why do you think the thieves who come to rob Jonathan speak English with a heavier African accent than Jonathan does?
I think the thieves who came to rob Jonathan speak English with a heavier African accent then Jonathan because of the following points:
- To show that they were (white) American.
- To show that they were powerful.
- To be believed by the Africans people that they know the English language.
- To show that they were superior and strong enough.
- 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.
Yes, the story is ironical. This title of this story is inappropriate because of the following reasons:
- The people living in Nigeria could not trust the government public servant, a police officer as he was corrupt a lot.
- Life of the people did not change. There was difficult to join hands in mouth. Most of the people were living under the poverty line.
- After the ending of the War in Nigeria, Robbery did not stop or controlled by the government.
So, the title of this story “Civil War” would be better.
Reference beyond the text
- How would you describe the civil peace in Nigeria?
The condition of the Civil please in Nigeria wasn’t good. After the war, the time of the Civil peace was the time of the resettlement. There was nothing new for the people. People had to face various problems during that time. The government’s law during that time was good. There were many risks in people’s life. Thieves Used To Loot and Beat people without having any fear of law. Though the Civil piece prevailed there, there was Anarchy everywhere.
- What kind of attitude towards life do you think you would have if your situation was similar to that of Jonathan’s?
I would be Optimist, hopeful and ready to face all the challenges. I would be helpful to every people. I would follow the right path, take the right decision, believe in God and many more…
- Draw the character sketch of Jonathan Iwegbu.
Jonathan is quite an optimistic person who has been faith in God. He always utters a line in the name of god saying that “Nothing puzzles God”. He becomes quite delighted to find miracles in his life. He never lives in disparity. He is a hardworking person who thinks positively for everyone. He loves his family members much. At the time of hardship, he tries to save his family first. During the time of civil peace, he works so hard to restore his life and his family. His wife and his kids also work so hard to support him. He really enjoys his present, giving value to his relative as well as his belongings. He never regrets his loss. He starts the taxi service, repairs his house, opens a bar for soldiers to support his family. As an optimistic person, he doesn’t regret losing his 20 Pounds which he had got as a favour from the government.
Hence, Jonathan Iwegbu was the protagonist Central character of the story. He was an ex-miner who was very labourers, and resourceful. He was also the responsible head of the family to inspire his family with optimism.