July’s People

by

Nadine Gordimer

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July’s People: Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Bam watches the warthogs walk through the grasses. Earlier in the day, one of July’s friends, Daniel, asked to hold Bam’s gun. Bam taught Daniel to aim at a target. Now, Bam waits in the reeds with Daniel, watching the family of warthogs and waiting for the opportune moment to shoot. He shoots two piglets. One struggles to die, and Bam shoots it through the head to put it out of its misery. The piglet’s injury is gruesome. Before, Bam had only hunted game-birds, which “had no faces, really,” and he feels like “a killer” for the first time in his life.
Bam is more upset about feeling like a killer than by the act of killing itself. This is why killing birds, which “ha[ve] no faces, really,” doesn’t bother him. His stance on killing shares similarities with his and Maureen’s position on racial equality as well. They will accept a certain degree of complicity in the oppression of Black people, so long as it’s not readily apparent. For instance, they’re fine paying July a minimal salary to run their household but will draw the line when July refers to Bam as his master, which too obviously evokes the racial inequality and history of oppression inherent in their relationship.
Themes
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
Gratitude and Resentment  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
Quotes
When Bam returns to the village with his kill, Maureen intercepts him. She reminds him to give the villagers the bigger piglet before whispering in his ear that the smaller one will be juicer. Bam constructs a spit to roast the piglet. Later, the family relishes the pleasure of eating meat for the first time in two weeks, feeling almost intoxicated by the nourishment.
It's ironic that Maureen is so suspicious of July’s loyalty to her family when she’s the one who’s being calculating in each of her interactions with him and the other villagers. Here, she subtly ensures that her family has the best cut of meat.
Themes
Gratitude and Resentment  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
Later that night, surrounded by their sleeping children, Maureen and Bam make love for the first time since their arrival in July’s village. Until now, lack of privacy and the overwhelming anxiety of their situation left them with little desire for intimacy. When Bam wakes up the following morning, he is horrified to find blood on his penis, initially thinking it came from the pig. After a moment, he realizes the blood is his wife’s, not the pig’s.
Bam’s initial thought that he is covered in the pig’s blood shows that he is still bothered by the thought of being a killer. He sees this as indicative of a broader shortcoming he hadn’t known he had: the ability to be corrupted and go against his morals.
Themes
Gratitude and Resentment  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon