Saturday, February 13, 2021

NEB Grade XI Compulsory English Note | Literary Studies | Unit 1 | Lesson 5 | Civil Peace | Chinua Achebe

Lesson: 5

NEB Grade XI Compulsory English Note | Literary Studies | Unit 5 Civil Peace | Chinua Achebe

Civil Peace


The story 'Civil Peace' is set in the aftermath of the Nigerian Civil War. It is about the effects of the Nigerian Civil War on the people. Jonathan Iwegbu is the protagonist of the story. To explain both good and bad fortune to himself and others, he often repeats the phrase 'Nothing puzzles God.' He has survived in the Nigerian Civil War along with his wife and his children and considers himself lucky. He also has his bicycle, which he buried during the war to make sure it would not be stolen. He turns it into a taxi to make money. In two weeks he makes 150 pounds.

Jonathan then travels to Enugu, the capital city. To his surprise, his house is still standing when other structures around it are ruined. The house requires some repairs, so he immediately collects zinc, wood and cardboard, and hires a carpenter to complete the work. He then moves his family back home. The family works hard to earn money and rebuild their lives. The children pick mangoes and sell them to soldiers' wives. Maria, Jonathan's wife makes akara balls to sell to their neighbours. When he comes to know that his job as a miner isn’t possible, he involves in selling palm-wine.

Jonathan is given an award of 20 pounds for turning in the Biafran money to the Treasury. He leaves the office with his money in his pocket, taking care, so no thief should get it. That evening, he has trouble in falling asleep. He finally does so, only to be awakened by pounding on the front door. A group of thieves demands 100 pounds, promising not to hurt Jonathan or his family if he cooperates. Frightened, the family calls for the neighbours and police, but nobody responds and comes to help them. Jonathan replies that all he has is 20 pounds and is ready to give it for his family’s protection. Some thieves insist they should search the house for more, but the leader agrees with the amount and accepts it.

The following morning the neighbours gather to review the results of the night's unfortunate disturbance. They discover Jonathan and the family are back at work. Jonathan explains them that the loss of 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.

Understanding the text

Answer the following questions.

a. Why did Jonathan think of himself as 'extraordinarily lucky'?
Jonathan thought of himself as 'extraordinarily lucky' because he survived the Civil War with his wife and children.

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.

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 of his certain lack of grip and firmness in his manner. He saved his bicycle giving two pounds to the officer. It reveals corruption and dishonesty prevailed in the Nigerian society as effect of the civil war.

d. What visitors might be at the door? Are Jonathan and his wife completely surprised? Explain.
The people who show up at the door are thieves. He and his family shouts for help but nobody came. The leader demands 100 pounds. Jonathan says that he doesn't have that much money. All he has is 20 pounds that he receives at the treasury. The leader decides to accept the amount. Jonathan gives it to him, and thieves go away.

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?
No one in the neighbourhood responds when the thieves pound on Jonathan’s door because they are scared of the thieves. They call for the police to make fun of Jonathan and his family.

Reference to the context

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.

Jonathan’s expression ‘Nothing puzzles God’ indicates his deep religious faith in God and pessimistic nature. Jonathan repeatedly utters the expression for positive outcomes - like the survival of his home and family - as blessings or miracles, and in bad situations, like coal mine's closing and robbery. He is willing to accept that he cannot control the forces of fate, and instead focuses on the future. He successfully manages the chaos of the war and its aftermath by accepting both good and bad events as the will of God. By attributing events to God, he accepts his disability to change things that have already come to pass. This makes him focus his determination on working for the future instead of indulging in self-pity.

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

Jonathan makes himself free from agonizing about the experiences of the Civil War and its after-effects. He exhibits a happy tone even in the face of hard times. He becomes more willing to get rid of material and monetary things to preserve what he cares for most, his and his family life. This willingness allows him to use his energy constructively in the present instead of having negative emotion for the past. His optimism remains unshakable throughout the story.

c. Read the extract and answer the questions below.

i. Who is the speaker?

ii. Who is the speaker talking to?

iii. Who does “they” refer to?


i. Jonathan is the speaker.

ii. The speaker is talking to himself.

"They" refers to the officials of the 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?

Achebe has blended both standards and local languages to make the story real. He uses these languages to differentiate the protagonist from the thieves outside his door. Their dialogue draws significant attention to this inconsistency. The use of dialect has created authentic Nigerian characters. He has invented a new form of English, a Nigerian English dialect to show the bicultural heritage of his nation.

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

The verbal exchange contrasts English spoken by the thieves in a heavier African accent and the proper English spoken by Jonathan. The way thieves making fun of the family’s call for help only reinforces these differences. For example, the family cries out, “We are lost!” but in a heavier English accent, this plea becomes “we done loss-o!” Achebe makes use of English with an African accent for three reasons. The differences between speeches suggest that Jonathan is better educated than thieves. Also, the use of English accurately reflects the eastern Nigerian society. Lastly, the broken English is used to produce comedic effect.

f. The title of the story "Civil Peace" itself is ironical ............ ‘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.

Achebe uses the title in an ironical way to highlight the violence which is still present in a post-war Nigeria. Though the war has come to an end, the area is still chaotic and filled with disagreement. The war leaves a tremendous amount of destruction. Even, a group of thieves use the term “civil peace” when they rob Iwegbu and his family. Moreover, the violence that was common during the war is not gone, and things are not much better for common people like Jonathan Iwegbu.

The story follows Jonathan Iwegbu who collects the fragments of his life after the end of the Nigerian Civil War. It praises the power of positive thinking through Jonathan's success. This shows that people are hopeful for bright future after the end of the civil war. The writer thus gives more emphasis on civil peace than civil war.


  1. Nice. Some answers are not going through the way that the qs are asked,

  2. Your vocabulary as well as the answer that you have presented is so impressive.I hope definitely your content helps students to do increse in writting skills.