July’s People

by

Nadine Gordimer

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July’s Mother Character Analysis

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 them to flee their home in Johannesburg. Like Martha, July’s mother is skeptical of the Smales and white people in general. She complains about the Smaleses’ extended stay in the village but goes along with her son’s requests. July’s mother has difficulty understanding her son’s loyalty to the Smaleses. Unlike July, she has never served white people and is vehemently opposed to taking orders from them. While July’s mother is not openly hostile toward the Smaleses, she regards them skeptically. She believes that all white people are trouble—even those as desperate and powerless as the Smales family.

July’s Mother Quotes in July’s People

The July’s People quotes below are all either spoken by July’s Mother or refer to July’s Mother. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
).
Chapter 4 Quotes

Her son, who had seen the white woman and the three children cowered on the floor of their vehicle, led the white face behind the wheel in his footsteps, his way the only one in a wilderness, was suddenly aware of something he had not known. —They can’t do anything. Nothing to us any more.—

Related Characters: July (speaker), Maureen Smales, Martha, July’s Mother
Related Symbols: The Bakkie
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

Abstractions hardened into the concrete: even death is a purchase. One of Bam’s senior partners could afford his at the cost of a private plane—in which he crashed. July’s old mother (was she not perhaps his grandmother?) would crawl, as Maureen was watching her now, coming home with wood, and grass for her brooms on her head, bent lower and lower towards the earth until finally she sank to it—the only death she could afford.

Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

—They will bring trouble. I don’t mind those people—what do they matter to me? But white people bring trouble.—

Related Characters: Martha (speaker), July, July’s Mother
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire July’s People LitChart as a printable PDF.
July’s People PDF

July’s Mother Character Timeline in July’s People

The timeline below shows where the character July’s Mother 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
Cultural Displacement  Theme Icon
...actually spoken and doesn’t seem all that happy. Maureen thinks the older woman must be July’s mother or July’s wife’s mother. The old woman alternates between “growling” questions at July and looking... (full context)
Chapter 4
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
...Smales’ arrival, July’s wife gave up the second bed and borrowed a Primus for them. July’s mother gave up her own hut. July tries to reason with his wife, insisting that they... (full context)
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
Cultural Displacement  Theme Icon
...In short, July concludes, there’s nothing that white people can do to harm them anymore. July’s mother cautions him that he “will never come to the end of the things [white people]... (full context)
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
Gratitude and Resentment  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
...did. The girls laugh as July describes the white china fixtures in his bathing room. July’s mother realizes the chicken that July killed has eggs in its belly and yells at him... (full context)
Chapter 9
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
Gratitude and Resentment  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
...cost, “even death.” One of Bam’s business partners bought his death aboard a private plane; July’s mother , in contrast, could only afford to “crawl” to her death. (full context)
Chapter 11
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
Gratitude and Resentment  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
As July and his family eat their meat, July’s mother complains about the white family that is still living in her house. July promises to... (full context)
Chapter 17
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
Gratitude and Resentment  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
Cultural Displacement  Theme Icon
...woman” doesn’t grasp that they’re going to the field to cut grass, not gather food. July’s mother watches as her daughter-in-law tries to explain the different types of plants to the clueless... (full context)
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
Gratitude and Resentment  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
It’s the perfect weather to collect grasses for thatching, and July’s mother is excited to check out a spot near the river that she’s been eyeing for... (full context)
Chapter 19
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
Gratitude and Resentment  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
Cultural Displacement  Theme Icon
...gun. When she doesn’t find him there, she goes to the women’s hut. Martha and July’s mother are there. Martha is struggling to bathe her resistant baby boy. She indicates that July... (full context)