African Short Stories
A fine anthology, well selected, well ordered, and altogether a pleasure to read. The editors have chosen twenty stories by twenty different writers from all over Africa, grouping them geographically into four different sections: West, East, North and Southern Africa.... They have done a particularly good job of balancing the work of lesser-known, younger writers with established figures: David Owoyele as well as Adhebe, Abdulrzak Gurnah as well as Ngugi, Ahmed Essop as well as Nadine Gordimer and Bessie Head.
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July 17, 2012
Response Essay 11: Chinua Achebe’s “Civil Peace” (1971).
This is a short story written in third-person limited point of view. It takes place during the civil-war that just ended in Nigeria. The main protagonist is Jonathan who survives the civil war in Nigeria and is trying to take care of his family. The living conditions are hard and difficult and one of the themes in this story is war and its impact on human lives. For example, Achebe describes Jonathan as someone who is utterly poor and you get this image of a man who is in destitute. Achebe says, “It wasn’t his disreputable rags, nor the toes peeping out of one blue and one brown canvas shoes…” (Greenblatt 2837). Also the war has left Jonathan bury his young son and left him with just one bicycle to go around and use it as a taxi and a as means to get around. The civil-war has also affected the lives of the workers in Nigeria. For example Achebe says, “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 officers and cooked what meal they could scrounge…” (Greenblatt 2839). This suggests that the war has made the economy bad and as a result people became homeless and hungry for food.
Achebe also gives more examples of what the war has done in Nigeria when Jonathan is trying to fight off the thieves. After standing in a queue for five days in the hot sun, Jonathan receives twenty pounds from the Nigerian Treasury, but then gets robbed by the thieves. For example, Jonathan says to the thieves in order to drive them away, “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…” (Greenblatt 2841). Nevertheless, Jonathan only has twenty-pounds, but the thieves don’t care and take his money. This is an example of how authors in the postmodern era described the difficulties in the twentieth-century.
Furthermore, the language used in “Civil Peace” is somewhat also difficult to understand just like the difficulties that war has created. The take away here is that, not only has the war ended, but [it] also left a complete devastation on the people of Nigeria and peace has not been reached. People in Nigeria are still fighting and the notion of “Civil Peace” does not exist. There’s no good ending in this story and the effects of the civil-war continues to destroy Nigeria and its people.
Achebe, Chinua. “Civil Peace” The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Volume 2: The Romantic Period through the Twentieth Century. 9th ed. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. New York: Norton 2012: 2838-2841
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