July's People Additional Summary

Nadine Gordimer


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

July, incongruously both servant and host, brings morning tea to Maureen and Bamford Smales where they are sleeping with their three children in a one-room mud hut with only a piece of sack cloth for a door. A small truck, bought for hunting holidays for Bam’s fortieth birthday, brought the Smales family six hundred kilometers across the veld in a journey that took three days and nights. The revolutionary forces trying to wrest power from the whites in South Africa caused the family to flee Johannesburg with their servant July to his rural settlement, which is populated only by his relatives. Maureen and Bam’s feelings about the revolution are mixed. It brings danger to them as privileged whites, but on the other hand it represents a possible end to the racist system they do not endorse.

Noticing one of the huts contains mining artifacts, Maureen thinks about her childhood as the daughter of a shift boss for the mines. A photographer once snapped a picture of Maureen and Lydia, her family’s servant. Years later she saw the photograph in a book. The photograph captured their social relationship, one that Maureen was too young at the time to discern herself: the black servant carrying the white girl’s school bag.

One day, without asking, July rides off in the truck, with his friend Daniel driving. Upset, not knowing where July went or why, Maureen and Bam begin bickering about why they failed to leave South Africa while there was still time, about whether their attitude toward the politics of South Africa is realistic, and about each other’s character. That night, after the children and Bam fall asleep, Maureen goes outside in the dark to shower in the rain. Before returning to the hut, she notices the lights of the truck returning. July returns with supplies and reports of shortages at the store and fighting at the mines not far from the settlement. Daniel...

(The entire section is 774 words.)


(Novels for Students)

In July's People Nadine Gordimer depicts the lives of a liberal, white South African family, the...

(The entire section is 1566 words.)