Short Story: "Civil Peace" by Chinua Achebe Practice and Quiz

Flashcard maker : Edwin Holland
Read the selection below from “Civil Peace” by Chinua Achebe and answer the question that follows.

“My frien,” said he at long last, “we don try our best for call dem but I tink say dem all done sleep-o . . . So wetin we go do now? Sometaim you wan call soja? Or you wan make we call dem for you? Soja better pass police. No be so?”

Which of the following is the best translation of the tief-man’s words?

“We’ve tried to help you call for help, but it seems everyone is asleep. What do you want to do now? Would you like to call for soldiers? Want us to call them for you? Soldiers are better than police, right?”
Read the selection below from “Civil Peace” by Chinua Achebe and answer the question that follows.

As soon as the pound notes were placed in his palm Jonathan simply closed it tight over them and buried fist and money inside his trouser pocket. He had to be extra careful because he had seen a man a couple of days earlier collapse into near madness in an instant before that oceanic crowd because no sooner had he got his twenty pounds than some heartless ruffian picked it off him. Though it was not right that a man in such an extremity of agony should be blamed yet many in the queues that day were able to remark quietly at the victim’s carelessness, especially after he pulled out the innards of his pocket and revealed a hole in it big enough to pass a thief’s head. But of course he had insisted that the money had been in the other pocket, pulling it out too to show its comparative wholeness. So one had to be careful.

What do you think motivates the “many in the queues” to blame the man for being robbed? Mention both implied and explicit details and defend both using evidence from the story.

The crowd gossips that the man seemed careless because he may have put his money in a pocket full of holes. The crowd may be judgmental because wealth is scarce and difficult to come by. Carelessness with such a large sum of money would be judged harshly by those who have comparatively little. Considering that Jonathan no longer has his mining job and many others were in the same place, the ex gratia money would be important for his family’s survival in the near future. It is easier for the people to blame the man for his carelessness than to accept that everyday people are helpless against the “heartless ruffian” or the thief in the night.
Why is the historical and cultural context of “Civil Peace” important to understanding and appreciating the story?
The historical and cultural context of “Civil Peace” is important to understanding and appreciating the story because Achebe is an author that writes with a specific purpose. In this story, his purpose is to show the aftermath of a violent war (the Nigerian Civil War). Although the war is over, violence does not end, especially for the civilians. Since I know the historical context of the story, I know that over a million civilians died during the war. Having this knowledge helps me understand why Jonathan is so happy and glad that five members of his family have survived. It also makes the ending of the story meaningful; despite all that they’ve been through and despite Jonathan’s happy-go-lucky resiliance, there is still violence. Understanding the cultural context helps me understand why the writing style and the dialects in the dialogue are so different. It encourages me to put myself in the shoes, speech patterns, and mindset of a Nigerian of the Igbo tribe.
Chinua Achebe believes that “[l]iterature, whether handed down by word of mouth or in print, gives us a second handle on reality.” Using the story “Civil Peace” as evidence, defend or refute (argue against) Achebe’s opinion.
Here is example of an affirmative answer:

I agree with Achebe’s quote. That is, I believe that literature, to an extant, can give us a second handle on reality. Reading about someone else’s experiences and their reactions can help us see the world from a different point of view. For example, in Achebe’s short story “Civil Peace,” I saw the world from the point of view of Jonathan Iwegbu, an eternally optimistic man who has seen horrible things. He has just survived a horribly violent civil war, yet he has a spirit that cannot be squashed. Instead of mourning the loss of one son, he “considers himself extra-ordinarily lucky” becuase his wife and three of his children are still alive. Instead of crying that the value of his home has dropped substantially without windows or doors and with a damaged roof, he instead feels blessed that he is not homeless. I define the “second handle on reality” that Achebe mentions as a second way to look at the world. After reading this story, I feel fortunate for my possessions and loved ones. Although the things in my world are not guaranteed to always be there, I know that there is always another way to see disaster. And that is Jonathan Iwegbu’s way.

Read the selection below from “Civil Peace” by Chinua Achebe and answer the question that follows.

“Awrighto. Now make we talk business. We no be bad tief. We no like for make trouble. Trouble done finish. War done finish and all the katakata wey de for inside. No Civil War again. This time na Civil Peace. No be so?”

What is ironic about the lines above?

They are being said by a violent thief threating others with automatic rifles.
Read the selections below from “Civil Peace” by Chinua Achebe and answer the question that follows.

1. “My friends,” began Jonathan hoarsely. “I hear what you say and I thank you. If I had one hundred pounds . . .”

2. “Lookia my frien, no be play we come play for your house. If we make mistake and step for inside you no go like am-o.”

Which of the following is the best translation of line 2?

“Look here my friend, it’s not an accident that we came to your house. If we come inside and find that we are mistaken, we won’t shoot you.”
What does the phrase “nothing puzzles God” mean in the context of the story “Civil Peace” by Chinua Achebe? Why do you think Jonathan uses it?
In the story “Civil Peace,” Jonathan says “Nothing puzzles God” every time something miraculous happens. It means that anything can happen, but God, being omniscient, is not surprised even when mortals are surprised. The first time Jonathan uses it, he’s marveling that his bike is still in working condition after having spent a year buried in the ground. The second time he uses it, he’s gazing at the miracle that his house is still standing. The third time he uses it, Jonathan receives twenty pounds as an ex gratia reward for turning in Biafran money. The last time he uses it is at the end of the story after his family is robbed of the ex gratia. It may seem that this is an unusual place to use the phrase because, throughout the story, he used it after something wonderful happened. In this case, however, he’s using it after something terrible has happened. It shows that Jonathan values the lives of his family members more than his money and is optimistic that things will get better. If he has to give up his fortune so that the violence will end, he’ll do it.
Describe Jonathan’s outlook on life and defend your analysis with evidence from the story.
Jonathan has an optimistic view regarding life. No matter what happens, he seems to look on the bright side. For example, during the civil war, he was forced to give up two pounds in order to save his bike from a man impersonating a soldier. A more pessimistic character might have been bitter at having to lose money to a dishonest person; instead, Jonathan was overjoyed that he could save his bike. In fact he called it a bonus “miracle,” though still one that was inferior compared to the fact that four out of five of his family members survived the war. Because of his happy and positive outlook on life, things that would have been considered “bad luck” were a series of miracles for Jonathan. He did not spend time being sad that he did not have a job. Instead, he used the bonus miracle bike to make money ferrying camp officials. Instead of being angry that such people had so much money that they could throw it away without thinking about it, he was overjoyed that he had made a “small fortune.” At the end of the story, Jonathan’s apparent luck comes to an end when he is robbed of his ex gratia or “egg rasher.” But even that does not change Jonathan’s attitude about life. He explains to his neighbors that the egg rasher, in the larger picture, doesn’t mean a thing.
Read the selection below from “Civil Peace” by Chinua Achebe and answer the question that follows.

“Awright! We know say you no get plenty money. But we sef no get even anini. So derefore make you open dis window and give us one hundred pound and we go commot. Orderwise we de come for inside now to show you guitar-boy like dis . . .”

A volley of automatic fire rang through the sky. Maria and the children began to weep aloud again.

Hint: Anini is a Nigerian coin of very little value.

Which of the following is the best translation for the tief-man’s dialogue?

“Okay! We understand that you claim you don’t have a lot of money. But we don’t even have an anini. If you open this window and give us a hundred pounds, we’ll leave. Otherwise, we’ll go inside and show you our weapons.”
What does Jonathan’s family do the morning after the robbery?
They begin the next day’s work.
Read the selection below from “Civil Peace” by Chinua Achebe and answer the question that follows.

Came the day of the windfall when after five days of endless scuffles in queues and counter-queues in the sun outside the Treasury he had twenty pounds counted into his palms as ex gratia award for the rebel money he had turned in. It was like Christmas for him and for many others like him when the payments began. They called it (since few could manage its proper official name) egg rasher.

Which historical fact helps the reader understand the passage best?

After the war, the Nigerian government switched the currency from Biafran money to pounds.
Why is Jonathan surprised that his house in Enugu is still intact?
A stronger home two blocks away had been reduced to rubble.
How does Achebe create a “new English” with his use of language in “Civil Peace”?
He fills his English with Igbo language patterns and rhythm.
What impact has the Nigerian Civil War had on Jonathan’s point of view?
He feels lucky if his family is alive and has access to the basic necessities of life.
In Achebe’s “Civil Peace,” the character Jonathan mentions that one of his sons died during the Nigerian Civil War. What is the historical significance of this background?
Millions of civilians died during the Nigerian Civil War.
Read the excerpt below from “Civil Peace” by Chinua Achebe and answer the question that follows.

At first he went daily, then every other day and finally once a week, to the offices of the Coal Corporation where he used to be a miner, to find out what was what. The only thing he did find out in the end was that that little house of his was even a greater blessing than he had thought. Some of his fellow ex-miners who had nowhere to return at the end of the day’s waiting just slept outside the doors of the offices and cooked what meal they could scrounge together in Bournvita tins. As the weeks lengthened and still nobody could say what was what Jonathan discontinued his weekly visits altogether and faced his palm wine bar.

Why did Jonathan return to the offices of the Coal Corporation?

to see if he could get his old job back
Read the scenario below and answer the question that follows.

Student B reads the following excerpt from “Civil Peace”:

“At first he went daily, then every other day and finally once a week, to the offices of the Coal Corporation where he used to be a miner, to find out what was what. The only thing he did find out in the end was that that little house of his was even a greater blessing than he had thought. Some of his fellow ex-miners who had nowhere to return at the end of the day’s waiting just slept outside the doors of the offices and cooked what meal they could scrounge together in Bournvita tins. As the weeks lengthened and still nobody could say what was what Jonathan discontinued his weekly visits altogether and faced his palm wine bar.”

After reading the excerpt, Student B writes this: “Jonathan realizes that he is not going to get a job or any help from the Coal Corporation and must depend on his own devices to make money.”

Which type of evidence describes the support in this student’s response best?

inferred details
Nigerian storytelling has historically been a(n) __________ tradition.
oral
What is the difference between explicit and inferred details?
The reader infers details that are implied by the text.
Why is it important to keep in mind while reading “Civil Peace” that Nigeria is a postcolonial nation?
It helps the reader to understand British influences on Nigerian culture and language.

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