Private Peaceful


Michael Morpurgo

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Church Towers Symbol Icon

Church towers in Private Peaceful symbolize heaven. This originates with Big Joe, because Mrs. Peaceful tells him at his father’s funeral that Mr. Peaceful is “up there,” pointing to the church tower, which Big Joe then innocently takes to mean that heaven is situated in the tower itself. When Big Joe’s beloved dog Bertha is later killed by the spiteful Colonel, Big Joe flees to the church tower because he thinks that this is where Bertha will be. It is therefore significant that when Tommo goes to France to fight in the war, the church towers he encounters are all destroyed. The warzone has literally eradicated the church towers, one of which hangs down “like a broken promise.” This symbolically represents Tommo’s lost belief in heaven. The things he has seen in the war have broken his faith, just as the war has broken the church towers themselves.

Church Towers Quotes in Private Peaceful

The Private Peaceful quotes below all refer to the symbol of Church Towers. 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
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 7 Quotes

I was once told in Sunday school that a church tower reaches up skywards because it is a promise of Heaven. Church towers are different in France. It was the first thing I noticed when I came here, when I changed my world of home for my world of war. […] There are not many steeples left now. I have seen the one in Albert, hanging down like a broken promise.

Related Characters: Thomas “Tommo” Peaceful (speaker)
Related Symbols: Church Towers
Page Number: 87-88
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

Church Towers Symbol Timeline in Private Peaceful

The timeline below shows where the symbol Church Towers appears in Private Peaceful. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 6: Nearly Five to One
Grief, Guilt, and Family Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon she thought, but now she realizes that he might have been pointing at the church tower itself. She now thinks that Big Joe believes that heaven is literally inside the church... (full context)
Grief, Guilt, and Family Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Everyone races to the church tower . Charlie falls over, so Tommo goes up first, and eventually reaches the top of... (full context)
Chapter 7: Twenty-Eight Minutes Past One
The Injustice of War Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Tommo remembers how he was once told in Sunday school that a church tower is “a promise of Heaven,” because it reaches up towards the sky. When he came... (full context)