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Symbolic Significance of the title of the story “Civil Peace” by Chinua Achebe

Symbolic Significance of the title of Civil Peace

The word “peace” is an antonym for the word “war”. As the war ended there’s supposed to be peace in the country but Achebe tells her readers about a whole different perspective of the post-war period. The robbery and the absence of any help are shocking and even disturbing in the story. It’s obvious that it’s still not safe for Jonathan and his family, as well as for other residents, to be in the country. Even though the war is officially over, it’s still going on between the people. However, the story is called “Civil Peace”. It can be said that the writer used this name to highlight the irony in the title so that the readers pay attention to the actual reality in the country.

The title of the story says what this period had been called by the government: it’s civil peace now – the war is over. Nevertheless, what is happening in the country is definitely nothing even close to the word “peace”. The title, tiny detail of the story, is carrying its main idea. The irony used in the title has a great impact on the reader to help him perceive the terrible conditions of living in Nigeria even after the end of the war.

There are multiple meanings to the title of Chinua Achebe’s “Civil Peace” short story. The first, and most literal meaning to the title is referencing the state of peace in which Nigeria finds itself after the Biafran Revolution, a civil war between opposing factions of the country. This is evidenced by the fact that the protagonist.

The second meaning of the title that can be found relevant is that the civilians of the state, those who probably suffered the worst effects of famine and disease that were consequences of the revolution, are finally at peace with one another. There is no more fighting between neighbors over the correct political platform. They are again friendly and hospitable neighbors, as evidenced by the fact that the protagonist is able to start and grow a rice-wine alcohol bar in his home to try to earn some money after the meager wages he earned while fighting in the army.

The third meaning of the title is that of the usage of the adjective “civil” to describe “peace,” making connections to the fact that peace can be almost as violent and dangerous as actual war. This is evidenced by the dangers faced during the Cold War between the USA and the USSR, who were on “peaceful” terms publicly, yet secretly ran multiple violent and fatal espionage and black ops “wet work” operations against one another in order to gain an edge in the nuclear age.

The fourth and final meaning of the title is most powerful and ironic, is that of the fact that “Civil Peace” does not mean that everything is perfect and utopian, in fact, it can still be quite the opposite. The word “civil” belies a connotation of proper rights and ethics and an overall chivalrous attitude. The opposite of this occurs in the story. Even though the war has finished, thieves with weapons still roam the shantytowns and tent-camps of Nigeria, pillaging whoever and whatever they find. And while doing this, they are completely relaxed about the appearance of guards and/or watchful citizens.

This is exactly what the robbers display to Jonathan Iwegbu, the protagonist. They boldly walk up to his house, bang on his door, yell at him, and when Jonathon and his family yell for help, the robbers even help them with that. This cocksure attitude I believe stems from the fact that it is a time of “Civil Peace,” which means no conflict and no fighting. If someone more powerful than yourself harms you, people will not stop to help, as they don’t want conflict, they simply want the ravaging consequences of fighting and war to end. And thus, “Civil Peace,” in the end, is simply a one-sided war.

The title, spoken by the lead thief, is ironic. The aftermath of the Civil War is neither civil nor peaceful. Pick-pocketing, armed robbery, and homelessness plague the country. The title also uses structure to suggest a certain continuity between the Civil War and the Civil Peace. The threat of violence continues to disrupt the family’s life after the end of the conflict; ultimately, the problems of the war have not disappeared with a peace treaty. The fact that the world has not essentially changed frames the story’s central questions of personal responsibility in the face of danger and uncertainty.

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