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One comparison between July's People by South African Nadine Gordimer and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is that of counterfeit identities. One of the themes running through July's People is the idea Afrikaner Maureen Smales has of her African servant July, properly named Mwawate, a theme is underscored by his two names: his Afrikaner servant name and his own tribal name. Maureen has conjured an identity for July that encompasses her notion of dignity and makes excuses for July's acts of dishonesty, like taking small personal belongings. Maureen comes to understand that this imposition of a counterfeit dignity on July humiliates him and that he measures himself and his own innate dignity by his village and not by his white Afrikaner position of servitude. In the end, Maureen runs away from this exposure of the counterfeit identity she has created.
In The Great Gatsby Jay Gatsby counterfeits his own identity. The son of Midwestern farmers, he pridefully and arrogantly rejects having to work as a janitor to put himself through school and embraces the first entrance to Easy Street of wealth and fine living that he encounters, that being the via the yacht of Dan Cody. Once Gatsby inherits Cody's money and meets Daisy, he swears to attain the kind of wealth that will find, gain, and keep Daisy, his Holy Grail. In order to achieve his conquest of his Grail, he counterfeits a life as large as the mansion he keeps as a beacon to Daisy. In the end, the things that Maureen in July's People and Jay in The Great Gatsby run after bring them face to face with death. Though the novel ends before Maureen finds out if her chase leads to her death or not, Gatsby ends his part in his story in his own funeral.
One point of comparison between the two novels is the status of women. 'The Great Gatsby' portrays women as mostly weak, dependent on their husbands and lacking in conviction. Daisy is cynical about her daughter's future and does not have the courage to leave her husband for Gatsby. In 'July's People' one sees women as being independent and assertive. Maureen has always dominated the men in her life. July's wife, Martha and his mother, 'mhani' too are able to express their views and opinions and represent the South African rural woman who contributes to the family income by making and selling brooms and cultivating the land. They question the emerging order of things,while in 'The Great Gatsby', Myrtle and Daisy are passive and do not question society and its dynamics.
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