July’s people assignment 1





July’s people assignment 1

Nadine Gordimer’s July’s People is a story about a white family, who are forced to flee their home at Johannesburg to the village of their black servant, July. Indeed, changes in life can be drastic that most people find it difficult to adapt to a new environment. Nevertheless, people will look for the best means to deal with the changes in their lives. However, prompt adaptation can change the onset of their identity forever. In the ‘July’s People’, the Smales family; Maureen, Bam, Victor, Gina and Royce are forced to emigrate from the city to the rural setting.

Gordimer depicts the life of a white family compelled by the violent revolution by the blacks. Since the time of fleeing, the white family relies on the black servant, July. In addition, the author illustrates the distinction between life in a rural community setting and city life. One of the main evolutions in the book is how the power struggle between Maureen and her black servant, July. The new environment showed her growth and changes, she noticed that her legs smelled, ‘for the first time in her life she notices her legs smells’ (Gordimer 11)The relationship of the two characters is relatively complex, and the author tries to analyze how they relate using the Hegel’s master-five dialectic. The growth and evolution of Maureen is illustrated well by the author according the encounters Maureen undergoes.

Maureen is the character in the group that stands out to be going through a personal journey. She grows up in an environment where the blacks are always the servants to the whites. Virtually, she watches her family including children adapt and making new friends quickly, but she is not tolerated by the other women (Gordimer 25). Maureen is repetitively interpreting and re-interpreting language and thoughts in her interactions between July and her husband.

Despite the fact that Bram struggles to make himself relevant by building a well and affirm his manhood by hunting wild big, Maureen becomes vulnerable and gets frustrated. Her sense of despair is clearly evident when she apprehends that she does not have the moods to read the paperback she had brought with her.

Technically, the prime theme of the novel revolves around the mis-understanding and perception of human’s behavior as well as their motives. Being July’s former employer, Maureen has always thought that her family was open-minded. However, as the book progresses her liberalism is put to test. From the start, Maureen trusted July as a servant, confident that July was honest to their belongings and money and at first feels grateful to their servant for saving their lives (Gordimer 46). Nonetheless, when they moved to July’s house, she sees properties that used to belong to Smales family. In spite of the fact that these properties are of low value like a pair of scissors, a fundamental suspicion starts to creep through and immediately questions July’s intentions.

The question that most readers will ask themselves is whether Maureen is right to worry about July’s motive to bring Smales family there or is she just being distrustful. Furthermore, another question could be whether Maureen is as liberal as she perceives or her ethics just a façade. Indeed, privileges move beyond boundaries. Besides being in July’s space, there exists a conflict in trying to maintain master-servant relationships (Gordimer 43). This is because July not only drives the Smales’ vehicle to distract confrontational attention but also attract power to himself. Not mentioning other valuable and non-valuable objects in July’s disposal but belongs to the white family. Faced with theft and no police or law, Maureen felt helpless, these were new things, and they had to struggle.

On the other hand, Maureen is seen struggling with her subservience to July as she notes the servant becoming less subservient to her as well as more independent since her family stay in his homestead. Despite using several subtle blackmails of telling Martha, July’s wife about her husband’s city affair with Ellen, Maureen fails to negotiate with July because long absence of husbands is typical in the lives of black women. The power struggle between Maureen and her servant is not only draining her energy but also abolishes the ideas about her family and life. It is evident from the book that Maureen is a hypocrite (Gordimer 72). She has always regarded herself as liberal, but in the real sense she is pretending to please her servant. For example, she offers ugly or old shoddy things because they are no longer valuable to them. July is not happy about how his masters do not trust him. He says, ‘when you go away you leave me look after your dog, your cat, and your car you leave in the garage.’ This statement indicates his justification that the Smales should trust him.

The July’s People, challenges the ambiguous and identity moral settings of any liberal South African white. The fact is lack of flexibility leads Maureen into living a desperate life. Towards the end of the novel, Maureen is described running after a helicopter possibly with the hope of seeking help and taking her to the familiar world. It is clear that Maureen grew up in a different scenario where the whites are the masters, but black revolution forces things to turn completely opposite.

Works Cited

Gordimer, Nadine. July’s People. New York: Viking Press, 2011. Print.


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