July’s People

by

Nadine Gordimer

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The Bakkie Symbol Analysis

The Bakkie  Symbol Icon

Bam’s yellow bakkie (pickup truck) symbolizes the shifting power dynamics in the Smales family’s relationship with July. It also symbolizes the cultural displacement the Smales experience during their time in July’s village. Almost immediately upon their arrival at July’s village, the Smaleses begin to resent how the ongoing civil war and their new status as refugees render them beholden to July. If the Smaleses leave July’s village, they risk being apprehended and killed by rebel forces. These circumstances force the Smaleses to rely on July to bring them the food and supplies they need to survive. However, the family struggles to adapt to their new subservience to July. Maureen, in particular, grows resentful of July’s new authority and begins to question his loyalty to her family.

July’s control of the bakkie is one of the significant points of conflict between July and the Smaleses. Even though Maureen and Bam know they can’t safely leave July’s village, the loss of agency they feel when July assumes control of the bakkie’s keys and operates the vehicle without their permission symbolically reaffirms all that the Smales have lost. If the bakkie symbolizes freedom—the freedom of mobility, choice, and agency over one’s own destiny—then July’s newly assumed control over the vehicle symbolizes the shift in power dynamics that has occurred due to the change in cultural surroundings and the social and political landscape of the war-torn nation. In this new, post-apartheid social order, the Smaleses’ race and class no longer grant them the privilege that had formerly allowed them to purchase the bakkie. This is why Maureen and Bam are so bothered by July taking off in the bakkie without their permission: it reaffirms their new status at the bottom of the racial hierarchy and July’s rise to the top. This is a tough pill for Maureen and Bam to swallow, since it forces the outwardly progressive couple to confront their new powerlessness and a latent racial prejudice they didn’t know they had.

The Bakkie Quotes in July’s People

The July’s People quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Bakkie . 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 2 Quotes

The seats from the vehicle no longer belonged to it; they had become the furniture of the hut. Outside in an afternoon cooled by a rippled covering of grey luminous clouds, she sat on the ground as others did. Over the valley beyond the kraal of euphorbia and dead thorn where the goats were kept: she knew the vehicle was there. A ship that had docked in a far country. Anchored in the khakiweed, it would rust and be stripped to hulk, unless it made the journey back, soon.

Related Characters: Maureen Smales, Bam Smales, July
Related Symbols: The Bakkie
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:
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 6 Quotes

There was nowhere to run to. Nothing to get away in. All he could say to Maureen was that it was July. July.

Related Characters: Maureen Smales, Bam Smales, July
Related Symbols: The Bakkie
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

—Here, I bring for you— He tossed up in his palm and presented to her two small radio batteries.
—Oh how marvellous. How clever to remember.— He had heard her say it all when friends brought her flowers or chocolates.
He grinned and swayed a little, as they did. —Now you listen nice again.— It was the small flourish of his exit.

Related Characters: July (speaker), Maureen Smales (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Bakkie , The Radio
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

There was the moment to ask him for the keys. But it was let pass.

Related Characters: Maureen Smales, Bam Smales, July
Related Symbols: The Bakkie
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

The bakkie? You know I’m tell them. I get it from you in town. The bakkie it’s mine. Well, what can they say?—

Only a colourless texturing like combings from raw wool across the top of his head from ear to ear remained to Bam— he had begun to go bald in his twenties. The high dome reddened under the transparent nap. His eyes were blue as Gina’s shining out of dirt. —Is it yours, July?—

All three laughed in agitation.

Related Characters: Bam Smales (speaker), July (speaker), Maureen Smales, Gina
Related Symbols: The Bakkie
Page Number: 59-60
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

He put the keys in his pocket and walked away. His head moved from side to side like a foreman’s inspecting his workshop or a farmer’s noting work to be done on the lands. He yelled out an instruction to a woman, here, questioned a man mending a bicycle tyre, there, hallooed across the valley to the young man approaching who was his driving instructor, and who was almost always with him, now, in a city youth’s jeans, silent as a bodyguard, with a string of beads resting girlishly round the base of his slender neck.

Related Characters: Maureen Smales, July, Daniel
Related Symbols: The Bakkie
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire July’s People LitChart as a printable PDF.
July’s People PDF

The Bakkie Symbol Timeline in July’s People

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Bakkie 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
...language. Maureen can sense that Bam has awoken beside her. She asks him where the bakkie is. Bam tells her that he was instructed to hide it in the bush. Maureen... (full context)
Chapter 2
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
Cultural Displacement  Theme Icon
The vehicle the Smales traveled in is a yellow bakkie, or small truck. It’s a rugged, economical car for Afrikaners and “coloureds” who can’t afford... (full context)
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
Cultural Displacement  Theme Icon
Bam had bought the bakkie for pleasure. Although Maureen was displeased when she saw him arrive home in the vehicle... (full context)
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
Gratitude and Resentment  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
But then, everything changed. The yellow bakkie that Bam had bought for pleasure became their only vehicle. They used it to drive... (full context)
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
Gratitude and Resentment  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
Cultural Displacement  Theme Icon
...offered to shelter the family at his home. So, they loaded the children into the bakkie, covered them and Maureen with a tarp, and drove into the night. Because they were... (full context)
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
Cultural Displacement  Theme Icon
...his extended family. Last night, when Maureen expressed her fear that the sight of the bakkie would alert outsiders to the fact that July was hiding white people in his home,... (full context)
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
Gratitude and Resentment  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
Cultural Displacement  Theme Icon
...he can play with the electric racing-car track that he managed to sneak aboard the bakkie during the chaos of the family’s departure. He wants to show it to the Black... (full context)
Chapter 6
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
...is her frowning face before him. Suddenly, Bam awakens to the sound of the revving bakkie. Maureen runs out of the hut just in time to see the vehicle disappearing into... (full context)
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
Gratitude and Resentment  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
Cultural Displacement  Theme Icon
...unhelpful replies. He returns and tells Maureen that it was likely July who took the bakkie. Bam had given July the keys the other day. This had seemed the logical option:... (full context)
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
Gratitude and Resentment  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
...though she were under a showerhead. Suddenly, she spots headlights cutting through the darkness. The bakkie pulls into the settlement. Were it not for the pouring rain outside, Maureen knows she’d... (full context)
Chapter 7
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
Gratitude and Resentment  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
Cultural Displacement  Theme Icon
...to come in. He enters, carrying firewood. Bam cautiously asks July where he took the bakkie yesterday. Maureen adds that they were “worried.” July mentions something about going “to the shops.”... (full context)
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
...concerningly careless behavior. What would happen if somebody in town noticed him driving the yellow bakkie and became suspicious about where he got it? At the same time, Maureen reminds herself,... (full context)
Chapter 8
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
Gratitude and Resentment  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
The Smales watch July’s friend teaching him to drive the bakkie and realize that they’ve missed their opportunity to reclaim their keys. “He’s always been so... (full context)
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
Gratitude and Resentment  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
...policemen out of town. Plus, he has a cover story: the Smales gave him the bakkie. Maureen and Bam start to suspect that July might really believe the bakkie is his.  (full context)
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
Gratitude and Resentment  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
...has become increasingly severe, and Maureen mentions wanting to place a rubber floormat from the bakkie underneath his bed to keep the dampness at bay. Bam interjects, cautiously mentioning that they... (full context)
Chapter 9
Gratitude and Resentment  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
Cultural Displacement  Theme Icon
Maureen still has the bakkie keys from when she retrieved the rubber mat last night. She waits for July to... (full context)
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
Gratitude and Resentment  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
...it’s just the two of them. He confronts her about disapproving of him holding the bakkie keys. Maureen tries to laugh off the uncomfortable moment, but July continues. For 15 years,... (full context)
Chapter 13
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
Cultural Displacement  Theme Icon
...can’t get a signal. Maureen leaves the hut and spots July and Daniel fixing the bakkie. July emerges from beneath the vehicle and offers a vague explanation of what’s wrong with... (full context)
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
Gratitude and Resentment  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
Cultural Displacement  Theme Icon
Maureen walks away and July resumes working on the bakkie. Even from far away, Maureen can tell that July is using the improper tools and... (full context)
Chapter 14
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
Cultural Displacement  Theme Icon
...July’s village, Maureen has become a total stranger to Bam. The cheerful woman in the bakkie this morning might “appear as ‘their mother’, and ‘his wife,’” but Bam doesn’t feel like... (full context)
Chapter 15
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
Gratitude and Resentment  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
Cultural Displacement  Theme Icon
The party returns to the bakkie to travel to the chief’s house. Bam tries to ask July for information about the... (full context)
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
Gratitude and Resentment  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
...meeting comes to an abrupt end. Before the Smales, Daniel, and July return to the bakkie, the chief asks Maureen if her family has been taken care of at July’s village.... (full context)
Chapter 16
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
Cultural Displacement  Theme Icon
...Bam and Maureen in front of their hut. Gina, Victor, and Royce remain in the bakkie as July picks up some other kids. Daniel moves to the front to sit next... (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
...a hundred pounds,” he tells her. Since leaving town, July has driven around in the bakkie without his pass-book. He believes it is “finished” but wants somebody to tell him to... (full context)
Chapter 19
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
Maureen makes her way to the bakkie’s hiding place—July and Daniel’s “retreat.” She thinks back to when she and Bam had entertained... (full context)
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
Gratitude and Resentment  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
Maureen finds July sitting on a stool beside the bakkie. She demands that he return the gun. July’s response signals to Maureen that she is... (full context)
Power  Theme Icon
Cultural Displacement  Theme Icon
...is lying about not knowing where Daniel is since they’re always hanging out around the bakkie together. (full context)
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
Gratitude and Resentment  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
...happy to stay behind and “profit by the others’ fighting.” She accuses him stealing the bakkie “to drive around in like a gangster” and make himself feel like “a big man.”... (full context)