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Nadine Gordimer’s: July’s People

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  • Pages: 5
  • Word count: 1126
  • Category: Novel

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Nadine Gordimer’s “July’s People” is a fictional novel which reveals many harsh realities of South Africa. Gordimer’s novel takes place during a transitional period of the Apartheid called “interregnum”. The epigraph chosen by Gordimer reveals the structure of the novel: “The epigraph of the novel, culled from Antonio Gramsci, sets the tripartite timeframe of the narrative” (69, Erritouni). The tripartite consists of the interconnecting: past, present and future. The past and the future are defined by the present explains Jeffrey J. Folks: “Focused on the interregnum and not the future per se, July’s People employs a futuristic narrative mode with which to examine the present” (115, Folks). The Smales family is caught in the interregnum which allows Gordimer to expose “morbid symptoms”. The interregnum in question is the one in between the Apartheid and the Post-Apartheid. The symptoms of the interregnum and the effects in the novel’s events.

Gordimer creates a unique environment of multiculturalism thanks to the present revolution in South Africa. The Smales move from their big home and swimming pool to a hut: “The seats from the vehicle belonged no longer to it; they had become the furniture off the hut” (14, Gordimer). The mixing of two societies occurs when they Smales bring modern objects in a primitive world. “The Title of the novel is a play on “possession” in several senses, perhaps most significantly in expressing Gordimer’s hope for a multicultural society” (116, Folks). July’s fellow natives warn him that this multicultural event is dangerous: “White people. They are very powerful, my son”(21 Gordimer). Only a national crisis or revolution could bring such a contrast in a cultural clash. The need for sustenance to survive comfortably pushes Bamford to use a gun: “the children who made free of every hut as the cockroaches, … and chattered all” (75, Gordimer). The village enjoys this rare and comical event which leads to a multicultural masterpiece. “The incense of roasting flesh-rose from every cooking-fire”(78, Gordimer). The white man brought this unlikely feast for the tribe and the Smales family are rejoicing in this supposedly unhappy place.

“The children made the grown-ups laugh.” The Smales family seems for a short period of time comfortable in this new culture: “They made love, wrestling together with deep resonance coming to each through the other’s body, in the presence of the children” (80, Gordimer). The multicultural connections during the hunt, the feast and the festival in this chapter are all linked with the interregnum. Gordimer almost creates and isolated utopia in the wilderness: The Smales children allow the reader to have an innocent point of view of the culture clash. Gordimer displays her dream of a peaceful multicultural South Africa with Gina’s relationship with Nyiko: “The strength of Gina’s friendship with Nyiko bodes well for the future of the races in South Africa” (78, Erritouni). Victor’s character creates a feeling of separation between the two cultures: “Everybody’s taking water!” (62, Gordimer). Victor thinks his father owns the water-tank system he built for the tribe due to his immaturity. Some events show peaceful multicultural events and some show materialism. The Smales family go to meet the chief of all the villages: “I come to see that gun. You teach me.” (121, Gordimer). The weapon usually brings out evil in political meetings; ironically the simplicity of the African native chief shows peace.

One would think that a household servant would receive trust from his employer after fifteen years of loyal servitude. July’s character embodies bravery: “July knew the whole six hundred kilometers, had walked it” (12, Gordimer). July is risking his life to protect the Smales family. Maureen Smales throws a tantrum when their vehicle goes missing. Maureen blames her husband for giving him the keys. She assumes their saviour had decided to abandon them at his own hometown. “Why don’t you admit we were mad to run?” (46, Gordimer). The “morbid symptom” of the interregnum involved in Maureen’s assumption is caused by materialism. “Their reaction to his assertive use of the car betrays the limitations of their liberalism” (71,Erritouni).

Gordimer wants to expose that the Smales are immoral capitalists and therefore indirectly support the Apartheid. Maureen displays greed and desires more tender meat when her husband brings back the hunted warthogs: “She murmured for his ear alone, the small one will be more tender.” (78, Gordimer). For Maureen to think about the quality of meat shows how appreciative she is to be alive. Maureen admits that she was wrong to accuse July of stealing the Bakkie when she acknowledges his well-doing of going to the general store: “He did bring things” (56, Gordimer). Later in the novel when the Smales visit the chief of all villages, Bam is at the wheel of the Bakkie. “July, unbidden, does not occupy the driver’s seat… the Smales continue to insist that July has stolen the car from them. July’s assertive claim on it is in line with the argument Gordimer makes in “Living in the Interregnum” “(71, Erritouni).

The interregnum forces the family to let go of all their possessions in Johannesburg. This causes them to fear the possibility of having nothing: “Struggling unsuccessfully to maintain the rights of possession, the Smales couple manifest the ‘morbid symptoms’ of a dying consumerist culture” (71, Ellitouni). The interregnum basically causes disaster in the Smales family. One witnesses strong evolutions in characters and harsh changes in relationships. Maureen and Bam become sick and tired of the lifestyle the interregnum forced them to adopt. “July’s People indeed shows how Maureen and Bam, husband and wife, have changed” (562, Green). Green proves his statement: “Her. Not “Maureen”. Not “his wife”.” (105, Gordimer). The importance of the present tense is fortified due to the ending of the novel. The Smales family remain in the same situation at the end of the novel. There are many interpretations to the ending but one can definitely admit Maureen is running towards a helicopter “She runs” (160, Gordimer). The fact of the matter concerning the unending instability of the novel is that it shapes the characters: “the central point about July’s People is precisely that these stabilities have been fractured by the revolution” (562, Green).

The present tense is very important is the novel due to the unclear future of Maureen and her family members. “Gordimer is not seriously engaged with the future per se: of all South Africa’s writers, Gordimer is most aggressively present-tensed, and her interest in the future is a perspective from which to speak posteriorly of the present.” (83 Erritouni). As a member of the ANC and fight for social right for native Africans, Nadine Gordimer embodies a novelist who uses the interregnum to unleash her imagination and opinions.


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