Private Peaceful

by

Michael Morpurgo

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Private Peaceful: Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The present-day Tommo isn’t hungry. He thinks to himself that it is a good job that Grandma Wolf (Tommo’s great aunt) isn’t with him, because she would be angry at him for not finishing his dinner.
Exactly why Tommo is not hungry is still unclear, but he must be nervous, or dreading something that will be happening the next morning.
Themes
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Grief, Guilt, and Family Theme Icon
When Tommo and Charlie were a bit older, their mother revealed to them that Big Joe had suffered from meningitis soon after he was born. The disease nearly killed him and left him with permanent brain damage. Tommo describes how when he was growing up, all he and Charlie knew was that Big Joe “was different,” but they still loved him unconditionally. His differences didn’t matter to them; he was “just Big Joe,” regardless of the fact that he couldn’t speak very well, read or write, or think like the other children. Big Joe loved “everything and everyone,” especially animals, and was “totally trusting, always forgiving.” Their home and their lives “always revolved around Big Joe,” and the boys would form their opinion of other people based on how kindly those people treated their big brother.
Big Joe’s “differences” are hinted at in the first chapter of the novel, because the reader is told that he doesn’t attend school with Tommo and Charlie. Here, however, they are made explicitly clear. Nevertheless, it is not Big Joe’s differences that are important to Tommo and Charlie. Instead, he is simply their kind, happy, and loyal brother. They didn’t need to ask questions about his condition; they just accepted him for who he was. Anyone who treated him badly was not worth their time.
Themes
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Tommo recalls one evening when the three boys, Charlie, Tommo, and Big Joe, had just gone fishing and were walking home afterward. The Colonel rode by on his horse, and completely ignored Big Joe, who was trying to say hello to him. Charlie blew a raspberry at the Colonel in response, and Big Joe innocently copied Charlie, but got carried away and started blowing lots of raspberries because “he liked rude noises.” The Colonel stopped and shouted at the boys: “I’ll teach you, you young ruffians!” Tommo claims that he thinks this was “the moment the Colonel began to hate us,” and that the Colonel had wanted to get revenge on the boys ever since.
Big Joe has been described as an innocent and sweet-natured boy in the opening of this chapter, so it makes the Colonel seem all the more cruel when he ignores Joe. The Colonel then shows even less understanding and acceptance of Joe when he shouts at him for blowing raspberries. Everyone else can understand that Big Joe never means any harm, he just gets carried away with the fun of the rude noises.
Themes
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Back at school, a boy named Jimmy Parsons has just insulted Big Joe in front of Tommo, for which Tommo has tried to start a fight Jimmy. Tommo is losing the fight, but Charlie swoops in and grabs Jimmy Parsons and starts fighting him instead. Mr. Munnings finds Charlie and Jimmy fighting and orders them both “six strokes” of the cane. Everyone in the schoolyard listens as Jimmy Parsons cries out “Ow, sir!” Charlie, on the other hand, bravely endures his punishment in silence. Tommo thinks that he has “the bravest brother in the world” because of this. Everyone in the school admires Charlie, too.
Tommo does not seem like one for picking fights, but he clearly loves Big Joe so much that he can’t stand anyone making fun of his big brother. Much like Tommo tries to protect Joe, Charlie also comes to protect Tommo from Jimmy, underscoring that the brothers are all fiercely loyal to one another. When Charlie and Jimmy are punished, the difference in their reactions proves just how brave Charlie really is.
Themes
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Related Quotes
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Molly comes over to Tommo after the fight and carefully cleans up his wounds. She then tells Tommo that she likes Big Joe, because he’s kind. Tommo is thrilled and knows at this point that he “will love [Molly] till the day” he dies.
Again, Tommo and Molly seem to implicitly understand one another without really having to explain themselves. Molly knows that Tommo will be happy to hear someone sticking up for his brother, and Tommo loves her for this.
Themes
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Grief, Guilt, and Family Theme Icon
From this moment on, Molly practically becomes one of the Peaceful family. She comes home with Tommo and Charlie nearly every day after school, and it seems like she never wants to go home. Even the boys’ mother loves Molly “like the daughter she’d never had.”
It seems remarkable that Molly becomes an honorary member of the Peaceful family so quickly, making the reader wonder why she never wants to go back to her own home. It also demonstrates the special kindness of the Peaceful family in accepting Molly.
Themes
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One day there is a knock at the door, and Tommo’s mother seems to be expecting it. The Colonel arrives, and asks to talk to Mrs. Peaceful in the garden. The boys eavesdrop as he tells Mrs. Peaceful that the cottage, strictly speaking, was tied to Mr. Peaceful’s job, and that technically the Peacefuls “have no right” to live there anymore in the wake of Mr. Peaceful’s death. The Colonel offers a solution: if Mrs. Peaceful comes to work for his wife as her lady’s maid, the family can remain in the cottage. As the Colonel leaves, Mrs. Peaceful cries, and the children gather round to comfort her, singing “Oranges and Lemons loudly so that the Colonel can hear them.
This incident demonstrates how cold the Colonel can be. It is only days after the death of Mr. Peaceful, but the Colonel is still happy to come around and tell Mrs. Peaceful that he will evict her family from their home if she does not come and work for him. The children, however, stick up for their mother. They can see how upset she is, so they sing the song “Oranges and Lemons” as a means of defiance against the Colonel. Big Joe sings the song all the time, so it becomes something of a family anthem, and when they all sing it together, they prove to themselves and the Colonel how strong they can be as a family.
Themes
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Tommo’s mother has no choice but to take the job, so the only relative the Peacefuls have is called on to help look after the children. Grandma Wolf moves into the cottage to look after the house and children. She is technically Mrs. Peaceful’s aunt, but insists on being called “Grandma” because she doesn’t like the term “Great Aunt.” The children secretly call her “Grandma Wolf,” after the wolf posing as a grandmother in Little Red Riding Hood, because they think it suits her cruel and vicious personality. She is extremely strict, but what the children really can’t stand is how “nasty” she is to Big Joe. She treats him “as if he were a baby,” always telling him not to sing at the table (which he loves to do), and smacking him if he disobeys her.
The children take their hardship in their stride, injecting a sense of humor into the situation with Grandma Wolf by giving her this comical nickname. This is their way of coping with her cruelty. Like the Colonel, Grandma Wolf doesn’t seem to understand Big Joe. She treats him cruelly, whereas the other children understand that the best way to deal with Big Joe is to be kind to him and accept his idiosyncrasies and little rituals, such as singing “Oranges and Lemons” at the dinner table.
Themes
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The family’s “whole world change[s]” when Grandma Wolf moves in. The boys barely see their mother because she was working so much, and Big Joe and everyone else are miserable because of Grandma Wolf’s cruel regime. Grandma Wolf even seems to be pushing Mrs. Peaceful aside, and goes so far as to criticize Mrs. Peaceful in front of the children, telling them that she has been “nothing but trouble” her whole life, for instance.
The fact that Grandma Wolf is happy to criticize Mrs. Peaceful in front of her own children proves how nasty she really is. The situation for the Peaceful family seems especially hopeless at this point in the novel, as Grandma Wolf seems to be gaining more influence than ever.
Themes
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