Chapters 1-2 Study Questions and Answers
1. July's People opens with this quote by Antonio Gramsci: "The old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum there arises a great diversity of morbid symptoms." How is this quote relevant to the Smaleses' situation?
2. Is July's People an "historical novel?" Why or why not?
3. What was the Smaleses' formal relationship with July? How has it changed?
4. Why did the bank accountant warn the Smaleses? Was he right?
5. What is the bakkie and why is it important?
1. The end of apartheid was a "dying" of political power and prestige for all whites, including the Smales. However, the Smales cannot start a new life without that power and prestige because they are refugees, hiding in order to stay alive. Their time in the village is not intended to be permanent, and yet they do not know how long they will stay. Therefore, it is the "interregnum" for them. Maureen's state of mind displays some "morbid symptoms" such as confusion, guilt and anger.
2. July's People was written in 1981 and discusses the end of apartheid. However, apartheid did not end until 1990. Therefore, although the novel is based on historical fact, the novel can be viewed as a futuristic, predictive work.
3. July was servant to the Smaleses in the city. He is their savior and protector, and now that he is legally free, they are equals for the first time.
4. The bank accountant told the Smaleses that they should withdraw their money because riots would force the banks to close. This did happen in the novel.
5. The bakkie is the truck Bam bought for hunting but that was used in their flight from the city. It represents their only form of transportation, but it also indicates their existence in the village. The bakkie is both their only way to return to their home in the city and the thing most likely to lead to their discovery by, and death at the hands of, the black militant groups.