July’s People

by

Nadine Gordimer

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Ellen Character Analysis

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 for July’s rural village. Maureen uses Ellen as leverage against July. She condemns July’s ignorance about what became of Ellen after he and the Smaleses left Johannesburg and judges him for having an extramarital affair in the first place. When July orders Maureen not to work in the fields with the other village women, Maureen assumes that July is afraid that she will tell Martha (July’s wife) about Ellen.
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Ellen Character Timeline in July’s People

The timeline below shows where the character Ellen appears in July’s People. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
Cultural Displacement  Theme Icon
...with a woven basket his wife had made for Maureen. July also had a “ town woman ” who worked as an office cleaner. She was a respectable woman who would chat... (full context)
Chapter 9
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
Gratitude and Resentment  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
...lose the comforts his service provided them. Maureen wonders if July loves his town woman, Ellen. She also ruminates on how everything comes at a cost, “even death.” One of Bam’s... (full context)
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
Gratitude and Resentment  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
...If July cares so much about his wife and children, she asks, then how does Ellen fit into the picture? Is she taken care of now? And does July’s wife know... (full context)
Chapter 14
Gratitude and Resentment  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
Cultural Displacement  Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 19
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
Gratitude and Resentment  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
...a big man, Maureen asks, then why doesn’t he know or care what became of Ellen? Furthermore, the bakkie is useless to him, since he has no money or means to... (full context)