July’s People


Nadine Gordimer

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July’s People Characters

Maureen Smales

The main protagonist of July’s People, Maureen is married to Bam Smales, a white, affluent South African architect. The couple has three children: Victor, Gina, and Royce. The Smaleses pride… read analysis of Maureen Smales

Bam Smales

Bam Smales is Maureen Smales’s husband and one of the book’s central protagonists. He is an affluent, white South African architect. Bam prides himself on his progressive, anti-apartheid views and strives to treat his… read analysis of Bam Smales


July is a Black man who has worked as a house servant for the Smales family, who are affluent, white South Africans, for 15 years. When a Black uprising overthrows apartheid rule in South Africa… read analysis of July


Martha is July’s wife and the mother of his children. Because July can only return to his village once every two years, Martha and July don’t have a very close relationship. Prior to the… read analysis of Martha

July’s Mother

July’s mother is an elderly woman who lives in the village with the rest of July’s extended family. She agrees to give up her hut to house the Smales family when violent riots force… read analysis of July’s Mother
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Daniel is a young Black man who lives in July’s village and is friends with July. He teaches July to drive the bakkie, and the two of them spend their days working on… read analysis of Daniel

The Chief

The chief has authority over settlements in July’s region. After word spreads that July is housing a white family in his village, the chief orders the Smales family to see him. He will allow… read analysis of The Chief


Ellen is July’s “town woman,” a Black office cleaner with whom July had a romantic relationship while working for the Smaleses in Johannesburg. July loses touch with Ellen when he and the Smaleses flee Johannesburg… read analysis of Ellen


Lydia was an older Black woman whom Maureen’s wealthy family employed as a servant when Maureen was a child growing up in a mining town. She would regularly walk Maureen home from school. Lydia… read analysis of Lydia


Gina is the Smaleses’ young daughter. Like her siblings, Gina adapts to the culture of July’s rural village and doesn’t seem to miss her family’s old life in Johannesburg all that much. She quickly… read analysis of Gina

The Shift Boss

“The shift boss” is the title Maureen uses to refer to her father, a wealthy mining boss who exploited and underpaid his Black workers. Maureen reflects shamefully on her privileged upbringing throughout the book. She… read analysis of The Shift Boss

The Man with the Red Box

The man with the red box is something of a wandering beggar and the rural region’s equivalent of “travelling entertainment.” He travels to villages throughout the area with a red box containing a record player… read analysis of The Man with the Red Box
Minor Characters
Victor is the older of the Smaleses’ two young sons. He’s frequently rowdy and mischievous. For instance, he manages to sneak his electric race car toy onto the bakkie before the Smaleses flee their suburban home. Like his siblings, Victor readily adapts to life in July’s rural village.
Royce is the younger of the Smaleses’ two young sons. Like his siblings, Royce readily adapts to life in July’s rural village.
The Photographer
When Maureen was a child growing up in a mining town, a photographer took a photograph of Maureen and Lydia, an older Black woman who Maureen’s family employed as a servant, as Maureen walked home from school. In the photograph, Lydia carries Maureen’s backpack balanced atop her head.
Nyiko is a young village girl who becomes friends with Gina. The ease with which the girls become close friends underscores how easily the Smales children adapt to life in July’s village compared to Maureen and Bam.
The Chief’s Headman
Daniel refers to the chief’s assistant as his “headman.” The headman walks with a “formal” gait and wears a mismatched suit. The Smaleses meet him when they go to the chief to ask for permission to stay in July’s village.
Nora/Nomvula was the Smaleses’ cook-nanny who ran away sometime before the Smaleses fled Johannesburg for July’s rural village.