You are on page 1of 2


Nadine Gordimer, (born Nov. 20, 1923, Springs, Transvaal, S.Af.), South African novelist and short-story writer whose major theme was exile and alienation. She received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991. Gordimer was born into a privileged white middle-class family and began reading at an early age. By the age of 9 she was writing, and she published her first story in a magazine when she was 15. Her wide reading informed her about the world on the other side of apartheidthe official South African policy of racial segregationand that discovery in time developed into strong political opposition to apartheid. Never an outstanding scholar, she attended the University of Witwatersrand for one year. In addition to writing, she lectured and taught at various schools in the United States during the 1960s and 70s. Her writing is famous for its unsentimental style which places situations in a hard, clear light. Her first important short story collection The soft voice of the serpent and her other early published works present scenes of everyday life in South Africa. Her novels A world of strangers, Occasion for loving and The late Bourgeouis World examine the problems and tensions that arose between blacks and whites under the system of apartheid in South Africa. In Julys People she examines these same situations, this time in a futuristic novel about a civil war in which a white family is forced to depend on their black servant. Still, Gordimers anger against apartheid and her deep interest in post apartheid South Africa does not make her writing flat. One of the main characteristics of her writing is that she presents situations from several points of view, at times from that of apartheid supporters. July's People is set in South Africa during a fictional civil war. July is a black servant who works for the Smales, a white family. Because of the war, the Smales are forced to leave their home. They end up in July's native village. Nadine Gordimer presents interesting themes about the racial differences in South Africa. After leaving their homes, the Smales are no longer July's employers. Rather, they become dependent on him and his village for their survival. July also happens to be a leader in his own village. Although many uncomfortable situations occur, the Smales learn to have a greater appreciation for July as a human being, rather than the servant they thought he was. The plot of Nadine Gordimers novel Julys People, revolves around the Smales, a liberal white family living in South Africa who in the wake of civil unrest in Johannesburg flee the city. Their servant July takes them under his wing and into his native village. Gordimer puts the Smales relationships, both within the family and with the people in the village under the microscope, highlighting the effect of race on individuals perceptions of each other and the security of their situation.

Maureen, the mother in the Smales family is the character that we felt in the group that really stood out as going on a personal journey in the novel. She watches her children adapt and make friends in the community so easily, whereas she is never accepted by the other women. She is constantly interpreting and re-interpreting thoughts and language in her interactions between July, her former servant, and Bam her husband. While Bam struggles to make himself useful by building a well and asert his manhood by shooting wild pig, it is Maureen whose head we get into most and her vulnerability and frustration that we feel. Her sense of loss is highlighted when she realises that she does not want to read the paperback that she has brought with her. The key theme of the novel hangs around perception and mis-understanding of peoples behaviour and their motives . Maureen as Julys former employer has always thought she and her husband were open-minded but as the book continues we see her liberalism put to the test. She always trusted July as a servant, confident that he was always honest with money and their belongings and initially feels grateful to him for rescuing them. However while at Julys house, she discovers objects that used to belong to the Smales. While these are of low value for example a pair of scissors), an underlying suspicion begins to creep through and she begins to question Julys motives. Is Maureen right to worry about Julys reasons for bringing the family there or is she just being paranoid? Is she as liberal as she thinks or were her values just a facade? As a reader we are brought on the journey really experiencing the situation and relationships.