Drastic cause people a massive displacement in life. When

                   Drastic changes in society
can cause people a change in their identities.

         Sometimes changes in life can be so
difficult for people to adapt to their new environment. In most cases people
will find a way to cope to their new existence; however, drastic changes such
as forced immigration from the city to a rural place can cause people a massive
displacement in life. When people are forced to leave their home to an unknown
place, their identities can change forever. The novel July’s People written by Nadine Gordimer portrays the story of a
white middle-class family who are forced to moved out from their home because
of the overthrow of the Apartheid law by black people. The only place where
they will be safe is at the village of their black servant, July. In the
village, they must find a way to survive and adapt to their new environment.
One of the most important developments in the novel is how the changing of
economic and political structure of apartheid affect the characters in
different ways. The character who struggles to accept the new environment is
Maureen, a wife of Bam and mother of three children. Maureen who is well
accustomed to the privileges of the apartheid law is unwilling to cope with her
new reality; as a result, Maureen slowly transforms to an unhappy character. These
political and economic changes affect Maureen sense of self because she loses
her privileges as a white woman, her role as a mother and wife diminish, and the
reversal in power with her servant July makes her feel devastated and desperate
to escape.   

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         Maureen Smales is portrayed as the protagonist
and as the character who expresses a massive displacement and role change throughout
the whole novel. Maureen grew up in an environment where she had a comfortable
and privilege life. Before the Smales are forced to move out from Johannesburg
and take refuge with July, they were a middle-class family and they were having
a luxurious life. For instance, they owned “A seven-roomed house and a swimming
pool” (Gordimer 25). Also, they could afford to pay for servants and they had
their “growing savings and investments” (Gordimer 8) and many other privileges
that black people could not have at that time. On the contrary, in July’s
village they must let go of their middle-class expectations of luxuries,
comfort, privacy, and possessions. It is at July’s home that the Smales realize
that the privilege they once had is being banished. Also, all the things they
took for granted such as food, clean water, toilet paper, clean clothes, and
many more, are now so essential in their new home. Ali Erritouni agrees with
this when he mentions “Their new life is a far cry from and is starkly
contrasted to the sumptuous life they have led before the war…” (69). This
shows how their life have changed drastically, especially for Maureen because
she cannot cope with the new changes. Maureen does not longer have the
privileges as a white woman, as a result, she finds herself trapped in a world
without an exit.

       Maureen’s role changes affect her
husband Bam as well as her children because her role as a mother and wife is
slowly diminishing. Surviving in a rural community is not only affecting Bam
and Maureen, but also their relationship as a couple. For instance, they argue,
confront each other, and they ignore their presence around the hut.  Even the desire for sexual intimacy is deteriorated
as the: “The lack of privacy killed the desire; if there had been any to feel.
But the preoccupation with daily survival…probably had crowded that out anyway”
(Gordimer 79). Primarily, the reason for their changed relationship is the
destitution of their possessions as well as the lack of privacy, communication,
comprehension, and mutual respect. Furthermore, Maureen’s sense of motherhood
also diminishes because her children adapt quickly to their new home. The
reason that the children adapt quickly is the fact that they make friends with
the children of the village and they do not stress out about their new life. Maureen
feeds them from the food July brings, but they can take care of themselves. Because
of her discontent of her current position, Maureen is unsuccessful to provide
care and love to her family.  Maureen
also notices that she does not fulfill her expectations as a mother according
to the norms of the village because she is a white woman. For instance, in
July’s village women must do housework such as carrying the wood and water,
wash clothes, cook food for the families and many other tasks.  Even though, Maureen tries to tell July her
desire to join the other women in the fields, he does not agree with the idea.
The reason can be explained by the fact that July still considers that these
tasks should be performed by the black women in the village (Gordimer 96). We
can see that Maureen is jealous of the black women who have tasks to perform while
she does not have anything to do. Also, Maureen feels devastated in a place
that give her no meaningful status to be part of the happiness of her family
because she feels she does not not belong in that community.

        The
first changes that we can see in Maureen is that the reversal in power with
July make her feel confused and uncomfortable; as a result, Maureen realizes
she is not as liberals as she thought she was. During Apartheid Maureen claimed
to be a liberal woman because she always treated July well and with respect. In
addition, Bam and Maureen “joined political parties and contacted groups in
willingness to slough privilege” (Gordimer 8). However, Maureen liberal views
are questioned when she moves to July’s village. For Instance, she used to give
material things to July, which make her seems so generous; however, she only
did this when the things were old, ugly, or unvalued (Gordimer, 59). In July’s
village, Maureen’s racism against blacks shows up because the laws are not in
her favor anymore. Another example that shows Maureen’s true self is the
argument about the Bakkie. Erritouni shows this when he says, “The reaction to
his assertive use of the car betrays the limitations of their liberalism” (71).
In the city, when July was powerless and obedient, the Smales did not approve
Apartheid. As soon as July takes their property, they feel offended. As
liberals, Maureen and Bam want to belong to a multiracial society but they hold
jealously of their possessions and material privileges. This tension rises because
they experience the contrast between having everything  and then losing everything. The conflict about
the bakkie is a good example that shows Maureen jealously of her possessions
and the reversal in power. Maureen resents July because he took the car’s keys
without permission, but Maureen fails to realize that the roles have changed,
and now July has the power. Even though, she is upset that July took the car’s
keys without permission she cannot do anything because they rely completely on
July and the political system that once was benefiting them is now falling
apart. In a conversation about the car’s keys July tells Maureen, “In your
house, if something it’s getting lost it’s me who must know… All your thing is
there, it’s me I’ve got the keys, always it’s me” (Gordimer 69). July continues,
“Your boy who work for you. There in town you are trusting your boy for fifteen
years…” (Gordimer 69). This argument annoys Maureen because July have never
talked to her like that. This new language is the language of power. July stops
being subservient and polite while talking to Maureen and this demonstrates a
shift of power between Maureen and July. In addition, July reminds her that
‘back there’ they used to trust July with material possessions. The reason can
be explained by the fact that during Apartheid, the laws were in their favor,
they had power over July, and they knew July could not steal anything from them.
However, In the new village, July wants to have the power over them. This only causes
Maureen’s racism to come out because she is not ready to be equal and share the
same laws with black people.

            Maureen is struggling with July, as she
realizes July is becoming more independent and less submissive. During one
occasion, she asks her son to go to tell July to come to the hut: “Go and say I
want to see him” (Gordimer 73). July refuses to obey Maureen, but end up going
after so many attempts from Maureen. By July rejecting her invitation, it shows
that July is now in charge of the power and this behavior irritates Maureen. As Maureen notices that July is winning the power, she
feels vulnerable. The only way she tries to win an argument is by threatening
him to tell his wife about the affair he had in the city with Ellen.
Maureen believes that somehow, she could gain back her control by provoking
him. For example, in a conversation Maureen asks him “What is happening to
Ellen? Your wife and your children were here, and all those years Ellen was
with you” (Gordimer 72). This conversation makes July upset and he walks away
with the car keys (Gordimer 63).  Maureen
fails to negotiate with July; instead, July realizes that the white family are
completely depending on him and he does not have to give any explanation about
his life to Maureen. It is clear from the book that Maureen is a hypocrite
because she has always stated herself as liberal; however, her actions and
attitudes in the new village say the contrary. Furthermore, in the end of the
novel Maureen runs after a helicopter with the hope of escaping from the
current situation that she cannot deal with anymore. This shows that Maureen
grew up in a completely different scenario where the whites are the masters,
and black the servants, but things end up completely opposite.   “Erritouni says “They resist redistribution
of wealth, seemingly obvious to the fact that, before the revolution, the
racial laws of apartheid tipped the economic balance in their favor” (71). As
Maureen realizes the laws are not in their favor, she feels devastated, thus,
she runs away in search of a new future, leaving her children and her husband
in the village.

       To
conclude, the novel July’s people examines a world where traditionally roles
and rules have been overturned, and where relationships have become undefined.
The Smales who were the masters of July, find themselves depended on their black
servant to survive. We can also conclude that the Smales are not as liberal as
they thought they were, especially Maureen who struggles to accept her new life.
This could have been true for many white people during this time because their privileges
were taken away. The main theme of the book is the placing of white people in an
environment where they are no the ones in charge. The black revolution replaces
the power of the Smales and their comfort in the city. Gordimer demonstrates
this throughout the character of Maureen. The political and economic changes of
apartheid affect Maureen’s sense of self because she becomes a completely
different person in the village. Maureen is a good example of what can happen
to a person when is placed in a completely unknown environment.