Private Peaceful

by

Michael Morpurgo

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Big Joe is Tommo and Charlie’s brother and Mrs. Peaceful’s son. He had meningitis as a baby, which left him with brain damage. This makes him a little “different” to Tommo, Charlie, and Molly, but they love him dearly regardless. Big Joe is nearly always cheerful and smiling, and he devotes himself completely to his family and his beloved pets. He always sings “Oranges and Lemons” to himself as a means of comfort, and the song later proves to be a great source of comfort to Tommo and Charlie as they fight in the war, because it reminds them of their brother. Big Joe is also notable for his unquestioning faith, starkly contrasting with Tommo’s constant religious questioning. Big Joe innocently believes that heaven is located in the church tower in the village, so he goes up there when his dog is killed because he believes that this is where he will find her.

Big Joe Peaceful Quotes in Private Peaceful

The Private Peaceful quotes below are all either spoken by Big Joe Peaceful or refer to Big Joe Peaceful . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Injustice of War Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the HarperCollins edition of Private Peaceful published in 2003.
Chapter 1 Quotes

A swallow swoops over our heads all through the prayers, all through the hymns, flitting from window to window, from the belfry to the altar, looking for some way out. And I know for certain it is Father trying to escape. I know it because he told us more than once that in his next life he’d like to be a bird, so he could fly free wherever he wanted.

Related Symbols: Birds
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

He told me once […] that your father was up in Heaven and could still see us easily from where he was. He was pointing upwards, I remember, and I didn’t understand exactly what he was trying to tell me, not at first. I thought he was just pointing up at the sky in a general sort of way, or at the birds maybe. But then he took my hand and made me point with him, to show me. We were pointing up at the church, at the top of the church tower. It sounds silly, but I think Big Joe believes that Heaven is at the top of the church tower.

Related Characters: Molly (speaker), Big Joe Peaceful
Related Symbols: Church Towers
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

I looked up at the church steeple, a dark arrow pointing at the moon and beyond, and tried with all my heart and mind to believe she was up there somewhere in that vast expanse of infinity, up there in Sunday-school Heaven, in Big Joe’s happy Heaven. I couldn’t bring myself to think it. I knew she was lying in the cold earth at my feet. I knelt down and kissed the earth, then left her there.

Related Characters: Thomas “Tommo” Peaceful (speaker), Big Joe Peaceful , Anna
Related Symbols: Church Towers
Page Number: 171-172
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Private Peaceful LitChart as a printable PDF.
Private Peaceful PDF

Big Joe Peaceful Character Timeline in Private Peaceful

The timeline below shows where the character Big Joe Peaceful appears in Private Peaceful. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Five Past Ten
Grief, Guilt, and Family Theme Icon
  Big Joe (Tommo and Charlie’s other brother) has never had to go to school, which Tommo thinks... (full context)
Grief, Guilt, and Family Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
At the funeral, Tommo, his mother, Big Joe and Charlie sit on the front row. Their father’s coffin is placed in front of... (full context)
Grief, Guilt, and Family Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
...so that Tommo’s father could hear the birds singing one last time. Tommo’s mother tells Big Joe that his father is “not really in his coffin anymore” but “in heaven up there,”... (full context)
Chapter 2: Twenty to Eleven
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... (full context)
Courage Theme Icon
Cruelty and Power Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Courage Theme Icon
Cruelty and Power Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Courage Theme Icon
Grief, Guilt, and Family Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Cruelty and Power Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Cruelty and Power Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 3: Nearly Quarter Past Eleven
Cruelty and Power Theme Icon
...Grandma Wolf fights an endless battle with the mice by setting traps for them, but Big Joe loves the mice and leaves food out for them. Grandma Wolf punishes him, but he... (full context)
Cruelty and Power Theme Icon
On Big Joe ’s birthday, Molly brings him a special present. It is a little brown box with... (full context)
Courage Theme Icon
Cruelty and Power Theme Icon
Not long afterwards, the boys come home from school one day to find Big Joe crying, and his drawer empty. Grandma Wolf is screaming that she will not allow “any... (full context)
Chapter 5: Twenty-Four Minutes Past Twelve
Grief, Guilt, and Family Theme Icon
...shows his family where Bertha is hidden, and the dog immediately takes a liking to Big Joe . In fact, after that day, she follows him everywhere. Big Joe is thrilled to... (full context)
Courage Theme Icon
Cruelty and Power Theme Icon
...her from wandering off. One afternoon, Bertha goes missing for a long time, and Tommo, Big Joe and their mother go looking for her. As Tommo is about to give up, he... (full context)
Chapter 6: Nearly Five to One
Cruelty and Power Theme Icon
Grief, Guilt, and Family Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
...their childhood, because everyone is silent, horrified, and “too angry to grieve.” Mrs. Peaceful assures Big Joe that Bertha is up in heaven now. (full context)
Grief, Guilt, and Family Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
That evening, Big Joe goes missing. Everyone is beside themselves with worry, and they desperately try to find him,... (full context)
Grief, Guilt, and Family Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
...Tommo goes up first, and eventually reaches the top of the stairs, where he finds Big Joe curled up under the parapet. He is “deathly cold,” and doesn’t move when Tommo shakes... (full context)
Chapter 7: Twenty-Eight Minutes Past One
Grief, Guilt, and Family Theme Icon
After Big Joe is found, everyone in the village (or so it seems) flock to the pub to... (full context)
Chapter 9: A Minute Past Three
Grief, Guilt, and Family Theme Icon
...again.” He then decides to keep himself awake by singing “Oranges and Lemons” the way Big Joe always used to. (full context)
The Injustice of War Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
...same name.” Soon, the German stops praying and starts rocking himself “like a child, like Big Joe .” When they arrive back at the British trench, the company has a cup of... (full context)
Chapter 10: Twenty-Five Past Three
Grief, Guilt, and Family Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
...is dead. He thinks about how his family will react to the news. He knows Big Joe will find comfort in his religious faith, and Tommo envies him for this. Tommo, in... (full context)
Chapter 12: Five to Five
The Injustice of War Theme Icon
Courage Theme Icon
Cruelty and Power Theme Icon
Grief, Guilt, and Family Theme Icon
...will be singing “Oranges and Lemons” rather than the national anthem or any hymn: “for Big Joe , for all of us.” Tommo is then called away. (full context)