What are some cultural elements displayed in the novel that can be compared to the non-fiction elements in South African culture?

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Nadine Gordimer’s novel takes place in South Africa during the Apartheid era. The sharp racial, class, and political divisions in this fictional treatment are the same as those that characterized South African society at that time. Because they are white, Bamford and Maureen Smales enjoy many privileges as urban professionals, including hiring black African servants such as the “houseboy” July. While their politics are liberal and they abhor Apartheid, they take no concrete actions to oppose it. Their white Afrikaner identity does not help them or their children, however, when the violence in Soweto spreads and threatens their safety. The violent conflicts that Gordimer depicts corresponds to those occurring in South Africa at the time as white rule would soon end.

Regarding July as a character, his position within his village, and the descriptions of indigenous African tribal society, Gordimer seems less secure and precise in her depictions. Apartheid’s severe segregation did mean that black people had to live separately. It seems, however, that Gordimer exaggerates specific cultural features, such as nudity, to emphasize the distinctions between whites and blacks and the association of black people with “nature.” In this way, she calls attention to transformations in the characters’ attitudes, especially that of Maureen.

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