What is the main conflict of Chinua Achebe's short story "Civil Peace"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The main conflict concerns the band of thieves attempting to steal money from Jonathan Iwegbu in the middle of the night. Following the Nigerian Civil War, Jonathan Iwegbu is fortunate to have a healthy family, his bicycle, and his home intact. After moving back to his home, he opens a bar and begins serving the ex-soldiers. One day, Jonathan exchanges his "rebel money" and is given twenty pounds ex gratia. That night, Jonathan and his family are sound asleep when they hear loud pounding on their door—there is a band of armed thieves outside of their home.

They initially demand that Jonathan give them one hundred pounds as they shoot their automatic rifles in the sky. They threaten to break into Jonathan's home and shoot his family if he does not give them the money. Fortunately, the thieves accept Jonathan's twenty pounds ex gratia, which he was given earlier that day. The following day, Jonathan's neighbors lament about the thieves stealing their money. However, Jonathan reveals his positive mind state by saying,

"What is egg-rasher? Did I depend on it last week? Or is it greater than other things that went with the war? I say, let egg-rasher perish in the flames! Let it go where everything else has gone. Nothing puzzles God." (4)

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In a broad sense, the main situational conflict in "Civil Peace" is the condition of destruction and lawlessness that exists in Nigeria as a result of colonialism and the Nigerian Civil War.  Jonathan Iwegbu faces hardship with hard work and a positive outlook, however.  Although his house has been damaged in the fighting, it is still standing, and Jonathan thankfully has it repaired.  His whole family chips in to rebuild their lives in whatever way they can - Jonathan's children pick mangoes, his wife makes items to sell, and when Jonathan himself is denied his old job in the coal mines, he opens a bar for soliders out of his home.  There is extra help also from the government, which gives each family a cash payment of 20 pounds in exchange for their Biafran currency.  This windfall opens the door for the immediate conflict in the story, which is heralded by the arrival of robbers at Jonathan's house.  The robbers demand Jonathan's money, and he can get help against them neither from his neighbors nor the law.  Jonathan gives them the money, and continues on the next day with his optimism and resolve intact.  He reasons that he has little to complain about since a day earlier he did not have the extra 20 pounds anyway, and he continues to toil away to rebuild a life for himself and his family in the face of whatever adversity may come their way.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial