July’s People


Nadine Gordimer

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on July’s People can help.

Lydia Character Analysis

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 sometimes scolded Maureen, but other times they were “conspirators,” laughing and trading gossip together as friends. Maureen remembers one scene from her childhood when a photographer stopped her and Lydia on the street to take their photograph. In the photograph, which Maureen only stumbles upon years later, Lydia carries Maureen’s backpack balanced atop her head. When Maureen reflects on the photograph as an adult, she can’t believe how unaware she had been of the power dynamics between herself, her family, and Lydia. In retrospect, the backpack balanced on Lydia’s head is a glaring symbol of Lydia’s subservience to Maureen. Maureen reflects on this memory of Lydia during her stay in July’s village, implicitly drawing a connection between her former ignorance about the nature of her and Lydia’s relationship and her present inability to make sense of her relationship with July.

Lydia Quotes in July’s People

The July’s People quotes below are all either spoken by Lydia or refer to Lydia. 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 5 Quotes

Did the photographer know what he saw, when they crossed the road like that, together? Did the book, placing the pair in its context, give the reason she and Lydia, in their affection and ignorance, didn’t know?

Related Characters: Maureen Smales, Lydia, The Photographer
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire July’s People LitChart as a printable PDF.
July’s People PDF

Lydia Character Timeline in July’s People

The timeline below shows where the character Lydia appears in July’s People. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
Gratitude and Resentment  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
...town. In the memory, Maureen is on her way home from school when she encounters Lydia, the older Black woman who works for her family. Lydia breaks up her housework with... (full context)
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
Cultural Displacement  Theme Icon
One day, a photographer takes a picture of Maureen and Lydia while they are out at the shops. He asks them if they mind. Lydia says... (full context)