July’s People

by

Nadine Gordimer

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July’s People: Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Maureen returns to the hut and tells Bam about July’s news regarding the chief. She also mentions her suspicion about July being afraid that Maureen might tell Martha about the town woman. Bam doesn’t appear to share Maureen’s concerns and goes outside to relieve himself. Maureen smells his lingering body odor after he leaves the hut and realizes it’s unfamiliar to her. “Back there,” frequent access to showers and baths had kept both of them unaware of “the possibility of knowing in this kind of way.”    
Bam continues to trust July and the other villagers. Meanwhile, Maureen’s apprehension persists. Her observation about not appreciating “the possibility of knowing in this kind of way” alludes to the idea that cultural displacement drastically alters how one relates to others and to oneself. “Back there,” Bam and Maureen’s relationship was sanitized and regimented. They had the freedom to curate the version of themselves they wanted the other to know. The unfamiliar culture of July’s village exposes them to themselves and to each other, and not necessarily in a good way. As their time there draws on, they become strangers to each other. 
Themes
Gratitude and Resentment  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
Cultural Displacement  Theme Icon
The next morning, the Smales family, July, and Daniel leave the village to meet with the chief. Maureen chatters affectionately with Bam and the children, as though the family is taking a fun daytrip. Meanwhile, Bam mentally prepares for the chief to order them to move on, though he doesn’t voice these fears to Maureen. Since their arrival at July’s village, Maureen has become a total stranger to Bam. The cheerful woman in the bakkie this morning might “appear as ‘their mother’, and ‘his wife,’” but Bam doesn’t feel like confiding in the person Maureen is most of the time. The bakkie gets a lot of curious looks as it passes by other settlements, which bothers Maureen and Bam. July seems not to care. Eventually, they arrive at the chief’s settlement. 
Bam’s decision to withhold his fears about the meeting with the chief from Maureen is further evidence that their time in the village has driven a wedge between them. Bam’s instinct to refer to Maureen as “their mother” and “his wife” is similar to the way Maureen refers to her father as the “shift boss.” In other words, Bam refuses to call Maureen by her name to distance himself from her. It’s possible that he’s doing this for the same reason that Maureen refused to name her father: he’s ashamed of her prejudices and doesn’t want to associate with her or them.
Themes
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
Cultural Displacement  Theme Icon
Quotes