July’s People


Nadine Gordimer

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Cultural Displacement Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Racial Hierarchy and Apartheid  Theme Icon
Gratitude and Resentment  Theme Icon
White Liberalism and Hypocrisy  Theme Icon
Power  Theme Icon
Cultural Displacement  Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in July’s People, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Cultural Displacement  Theme Icon

One of the biggest challenges that life in July’s rural village poses for the Smales family is learning to adjust to a culture that is drastically different from their own. The Smaleses are an affluent, white South African family. Their old life in Johannesburg, which Maureen and Bam refer to as “back there,” was defined by the ease, comfort, and material pleasures that their race, class, and social status afforded them. When civil war necessitates that they flee to July’s village, the move forces them to give up the social and cultural frameworks that not only occupied their time but formed the basis of their identities and gave their lives meaning. “Back there,” the Smaleses lived in a spacious, suburban home outfitted with countless material comforts and the freedom of privacy. In July’s village, the family of five inhabits a small, earthen hut. Privacy is nonexistent, and their material possessions consist of a radio that rarely works, the clothes on their backs, and very little else. Instead of their newfound lack of distractions drawing the family closer, the opposite occurs. Stripped of the familiar cultural customs and social norms that used to dictate their thoughts and interactions, the Smaleses become strangers to themselves and each other. Maureen stops referring to Bam and her children by their names, relying instead on impersonal signifiers like “the blond man” and “the children.” Bam and Maureen become estranged from each other, too. Their desire for physical intimacy disappears, and their conversations are increasingly limited to superficial small talk. July’s People suggests that culture and identity are deeply intertwined. When a person experiences cultural displacement, they lose the cultural and social reference points that gave their lives comfort, structure, and meaning.

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Cultural Displacement ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Cultural Displacement appears in each chapter of July’s People. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Cultural Displacement Quotes in July’s People

Below you will find the important quotes in July’s People related to the theme of Cultural Displacement .
Chapter 2 Quotes

He would no sooner shoot a buck than a man; and he did not keep any revolver under his pillow to defend his wife, his children or his property in their suburban house.

Related Characters: Maureen Smales, Bam Smales, July
Related Symbols: Bam’s Shotgun
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

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 5 Quotes

She was already not what she was. No fiction could compete with what she was finding she did not know, could not have imagined or discovered through imagination. They had nothing.

Related Characters: Maureen Smales, Bam Smales, July
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

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:
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

Submission to the elements was something forgotten, back there.

Related Characters: Maureen Smales, Bam Smales, July
Page Number: 57
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:
Chapter 10 Quotes

He understood, for the first time, that he was a killer. A butcher like any other in rubber boots among the slush of guts, urine and blood at the abattoir, although July and his kin would do the skinning and quartering. The acceptance was a kind of relief he didn’t want to communicate or discuss.

Related Characters: Maureen Smales, Bam Smales, July, Daniel
Related Symbols: Bam’s Shotgun
Page Number: 78
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

It was as if she grimaced at him, ugly; and yet she was his ‘poor thing’, dishevelled by living like this, obliged to turn her hand to all sorts of unpleasant things. —Why didn’t you get one of them to do it?—

Related Characters: Bam Smales (speaker), Maureen Smales
Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Quotes

How was she to have known, until she came here, that the special consideration she had shown for his dignity as a man, while he was by definition a servant, would become his humiliation itself, the one thing there was to say between them that had any meaning.

Related Characters: Maureen Smales, July
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14 Quotes

The chief wanted them to move on; the three children running in and out the hut with their childish sensationalism, their plaints, their brief ecstasies, his wife knocking a nail into her sandal with a stone, and he, shaving outside where there was light. Would tell them to go. What business of the chief’s to tell them where? He had not asked them to come here. A wide arc of the hand: plenty place to go. And this was not their custom, but the civilized one; when a white farmer sold up, or died, the next owner would simply say to the black labourers living and working on the land, born there: go.

Related Characters: Bam Smales, The Chief, July, Daniel
Page Number: 104
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 15 Quotes

It was she who smiled at July, said what had to be said. —We owe him everything.—

Related Characters: Maureen Smales (speaker), July, Bam Smales, The Chief
Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 19 Quotes

She saw that he wouldn’t answer the child; but he was back there: if he couldn’t pick up the phone and call the police whom he and she had despised for their brutality and thuggery in the life lived back there, he did not know what else to do.

Related Characters: Maureen Smales, Bam Smales, Victor
Related Symbols: Bam’s Shotgun
Page Number: 145
Explanation and Analysis:

She understood although she knew no word. Understood everything: what he had had to be, how she had covered up to herself for him, in order for him to be her idea of him. But for himself—to be intelligent, honest, dignified for her was nothing; his measure as a man was taken elsewhere and by others. She was not his mother, his wife, his sister, his friend, his people.

Related Characters: Maureen Smales, July
Related Symbols: Bam’s Shotgun
Page Number: 152
Explanation and Analysis: