July’s People

by

Nadine Gordimer

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The Shift Boss Character Analysis

“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 prides herself on the progressive, anti-apartheid views she adopted as an adult and resents her inherited complicity in the oppression of South Africa’s Black population. Maureen’s habit of invoking the impersonal title “shift boss” illustrates her desire to distance herself from her family and past.
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The Shift Boss Character Timeline in July’s People

The timeline below shows where the character The Shift Boss appears in July’s People. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
Cultural Displacement  Theme Icon
...a mud hut. She recalls taking family trips to Kruger Park while her father, a shift boss , was on leave. Bam’s family, too, had built rondavels inspired by “the huts of... (full context)
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
...metal jangling. Now, sitting in the tribal hut, Maureen thinks back to her room at shift boss ’s house at the mine that she’d had to herself after her older sister left... (full context)
Chapter 6
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
Gratitude and Resentment  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
Maureen’s father had spoken “the bastard black lingua franca,” though his vocabulary was limited to giving orders... (full context)
Chapter 9
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
Gratitude and Resentment  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
...word “boy” as a weapon against her, but she can’t remember ever calling him this. Maureen’s father might have infantilized the Black men who worked in his mine, but Maureen is different... (full context)