The short story "Civil Peace" by Chinua Achebe takes place in the aftermath of the devastating Nigerian Civil War. The protagonist, Jonathan Iwegbu, has been hiding in the forest with his family. He returns to their village, repairs their house, and then he and his wife and children get busy surviving and repairing their lives now that the war is over.
The overwhelming tone of the story is optimistic. Jonathan is bursting with optimism no matter what he encounters, which is epitomized by the expression "nothing puzzles God." For instance, when he returns to their village and finds their mud-brick house damaged, with doors, windows, and part of the roof missing, he does not lament what is missing but instead expresses gratitude that at least most of the house is standing. His attitude toward the death of his youngest son and the near loss of his bicycle are other examples of Jonathan's overflowing optimism.
Writers use juxtaposition, or the placing side-by-side of characters, actions, or ideas, to develop comparisons or contrasts in the context of the plot or theme. In the example of Jonathan's son and the bicycle being buried near each other in the graveyard, it is Achebe's intention to highlight Jonathan's attitude toward the two.
Achebe makes it clear from the beginning of the story that Jonathan considers himself "extraordinarily lucky" because he has come out of the war with his wife and three out of his four sons still alive. None of the material things that he recovers compare in value to his family. From this we can deduce that the war must have been particularly savage. It is possible that other people lost their entire families. Of course Jonathan and his wife must have mourned the son that they lost, but at the same time, they consider themselves more blessed than many of the people around them.
In contrast, although Jonathan values the bicycle because it helps him to make money, it is clearly of little significance compared to the lives of his family. Achebe makes this clear at the end of the first paragraph:
As a bonus he also had his old bicycle—a miracle too but naturally not to be compared to the safety of five human heads.
The bicycle is helpful to him, but "he would still have let it go without a thought" to aid the war effort if he had not realized that the person who had attempted to requisition it was a charlatan. We see, then, that the placing of the dead son and the bicycle near each other in the graveyard allows Achebe to compare their relative importance to Jonathan and his family.