Lit. NotesShort Story

Why does Jonathan of Achebe’s short story “Civil Peace” count himself as ‘extraordinary Lucky’?


The story “Civil Peace” overstresses Achebe’s awareness of catastrophic disturbances in the lives of ordinary people in war-torn Nigeria. Jonathan, the central character of the story, thought he would never survive the terrible war. Living and surviving through the Nigerian Civil war has made him value life and it has shaped his philosophy of optimism.

Jonathan’s Optimism

Jonathan Iwegbu is the protagonist of “Civil Peace.” He is defined by optimism and resilience, even in the face of great tragedy. Despite the devastation of the Civil War, Jonathan celebrates what he still has rather than regretting what he has lost. For instance, he gives thanks for the lives of his wife and three living children, instead of mourning the son he buried.

An Industrious Person

Jonathan is not only optimistic but also industrious. Instead of waiting for the situation to change, he starts several businesses. Through the end of the story, he remains focused on the future. Even when his ex gratia money is stolen by thieves, he tells sympathetic neighbors that he “count[s] it as nothing” and continues to work.

A Symbol of Hope

Jonathan is indeed conveying a strong message to his post-civil war generation. With his invincible spirit of optimism, he refuses to surrender himself because he has survived the civil war and he considers himself as “extraordinarily happy.” Nothing can be “compared to the safety of five human heads.” He has lost all his money, he works very hard for a living, and he lives in a mud house, but he is “extraordinarily” happy because the war is over.

Jonathan’s Bicycle, not a Bicycle but a Miracle for Him

After the war ended, Jonathan found himself very lucky wherever he goes he encountered miracles. He digs up the bicycle that he buried for safekeeping during the war, and he is able to put it into service as a taxi after only a little greasing with palm oil (Achebe). Thus, at a time when many people had few material possessions at their disposal or lacked the means to make a living, Jonathan is able to embark on building his new life. His occupational success, which he deems good fortune, is later contrasted to the occupational disarray that his former colleagues at the coal mine experience. Whereas, he has created the job of running his bar, many of them are unemployed and spend their days and weeks waiting outside the mining offices, hoping to hear news of its reopening.

Jonathan’s Mud House, a Monumental Blessing

Upon his first trip back to Enugu, he found another monumental blessing standing before him this time it was little house in Ogui Overside. Indeed nothing puzzles God! While his neighbor had put up solid concrete house just before war which was not big mountain of rubble, while Jonathans house was made out of mud blocks. Again, he chooses to spend his time and energy being grateful for what he still retains, not regretful for what he has lost because of the war. He also rationalizes any misfortune. For instance, with regard to his house, since he is one of the early returnees to Enugu, he is able to readily collect enough materials to repair it before thousands more come out of their forest holes looking for the same things. Soon, the “overjoyed” family is able to move back in. The house even becomes a “greater blessing” as it allows Jonathan to open a bar serving fresh palm-wine mixed with water, which turns out to be his primary source of income. “Of courses the doors and windows were missing and five sheets off the roof. But what was that?”

This quote demonstrates Jonathan’s positive outlook. His overwhelming joy at finding his house standing in the aftermath of the war outshines the significant damage it incurred, or the destruction the rest of his hometown has suffered. The paragraph leading up to this sentence describes at length Jonathan’s genuine gratitude and happiness. When the damage to his home is finally referenced, it is spoken of quickly, and immediately put into a larger context: “But what was that?” The story remains realistic by acknowledging the negative, but then emphasizes the positive, ultimately promoting resilience in the face of adversity.

“Nothing Puzzles God”

Jonathan has chosen optimism as a philosophy and he addresses all the problems which happen to him in his daily life with this following doctrine: “Nothing puzzles God.” Jonathan is a spiritual man who has a strong optimistic view of life which has kept him from madness and it gives him the necessary strength to take care of himself and his family. . Writes C. L. Innes in Chinua Achebe, for Jonathan, every small act of recovery even the money earned by the hard work of his wife and himself is ex gratia, an act of grace bestowed upon the lucky by the unfathomable gods. Indeed, when he receives his “egg-rasher” payment from the government, even after waiting in lines for five days, he compares the egg-rasher to a “windfall” and the day to Christmas.

Jonathan’s Total Surrender to God

Achebe has sent a strong message of peace to his people through his main character called Jonathan. Indeed civil peace cannot happen without a total surrender to God. He does not want to resemble the man who has “collapsed into near-madness in an instant” because he has lost his money. Jonathan’s faith in God makes him physically and mentally much stronger than this man. The most important thing for Jonathan Iwegbu is to be thankful for what you have been given and especially not to forget to vocally praise the wisdom of God. Jonathan Iwegbu prefers to count his blessings and he is satisfied with things as they are. Therefore, the incident with the thieves is counting “as nothing.”


This story shares one man’s experience in a tumultuous post-civil war period, published only a short time after the war in Nigeria ended, the story chronicles a perilous era at the same time that Nigerians were still undergoing the sort of trials that it describes. As in his other short stories focusing on the war, Achebe does not attempt to maintain an authorial sense of detachment. Civil Peace represents Achebe’s ongoing social commitment to his culture, his people, and the fight against injustice. Civil Peace captures a spirit of optimism. After three years, the bloody, deadly war is finally over. Though the people of eastern Nigeria, the former Biafra, have lost their bid for independence, with the end of the conflict, they can refocus their attention. Now, instead of funneling their energies into the war effort or merely getting by, they can work for better, more prosperous times. The story opens on an extremely positive note: Jonathan Iwegbu counted himself extraordinarily lucky . ‘Happy survival!’ meant so much more to him than just a current fashion of greeting old friends in the first hazy days of peace. It went deep to his heart. Jonathan is sensitive to his plight and that of other Biafrans. He knows he is lucky to have escaped the war with “five inestimable blessings himself, his wife Maria and the heads of three out of their four children.

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