Achebe's story is about a man who, with most of his family, has survived the civil war in Nigeria. The first part of the story deals with how "lucky" the protagonist, Jonathan Iwegbu, considers himself: not only has he, his wife, and "three out of four" children survived he war, but he has also retained his bicycle, a key possession, and, incredibly, his house, a hut made of mud bricks which remains standing when a much more solidly built building nearby has been reduced to rubble. Iwegbu sees this good fortune as a miracle; as he says when he digs up his bicycle and finds it in good shape, "nothing puzzles God."
Much of the middle of the story has to do with Iwegbu trying to earn money any way he can. He is very enterprising. He uses his bicycle as a kind of taxi, selling rides to officials. He opens a kind of bar where he sells palm wine to soldiers. His wife makes akara balls to sell to the neighbors. He even receives a payment from the government for turning in rebel currency, something popularly called "egg rasher" money.
The final part of the story is about how a band of robbers come to his house one night and demand one hundred pounds. It's not clear how many there are, but they are armed. While Iwegbu is clearly fearful for the lives of his family, he insists that he only has his "egg rasher" money—twenty pounds. The robbers reluctantly accept this lesser amount, which he hands over.
The next day, Iwegbu returns to work, and tells commiserating neighbors that the money was unimportant—he did not depend on it, and its loss was hardly any worse than what had happened during the war.
The aftermath of the Nigerian Civil War, which took place from 1967-1970, serves as the historical background for the story “Civil Peace” by Chinua Achebe. Achebe believes that the African story must be told by an African writer.
The story introduces an heroic protagonist, Jonathan Iwegbu, whose optimistic attitude surprises the reader since his country and his family have just survived a terrible civil war. Part of his good natured outlook stems from the survival of his family with the exception of one child.
To add to his happiness, he found his old bicycle exactly where he had buried it. The bicycle was his means of family support. The bicycle serves as a taxi which allows Jonathan to make money. Within two weeks, he made 150 pounds.
To add to his amazement, Jonathan journeys to Enugu to see if his home is still standing. Expecting the worst, he discovers that it just has minor damage. But two doors down the houses had been destroyed. Again, thank you God. After hiring a carpenter to repair the house, his family moves back in their home.
Jonathan’s enthusiasm carries over to his wife, who makes breakfast balls, and children, who pick mangos and sell them to make more money. His entrepreneurial ability enables him to open a bar for soldier and anyone who had money.
The joy of life remains with Jonathan throughout the story. He is given back from the government money that he had given to them during the war. That night he is awakened in the middle of the night by armed men. They want his money because they believe that he is wealthy.
Using African diction, the men converse. The leader has very poor English skills with an heavy African pronunciation. As the conversation continues, the thief leader uses several kinds of intimidation to convince Jonathan of the necessity of giving him the money.
The leader believes that Jonathan has one hundred pounds:
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…
Jonathan gives the man the money, and he is gone.
In the morning, Jonathan wakes up his family to begin the day again. All of them are busy and ready to move forward with their lives. Jonathan believes that the money was unnecessary, and life will go on. Jonathan’s mantra for life is “Nothing puzzles God.”