July's People: Gordimer's Radical Critique of White 'Liberal' Attitude

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Nadine Gordimer shares the Bellovian view that the writer is "an imaginative historian, who is able to get closer to contemporary facts than social scientists possibly can" (Kakutani 24). [...] what we see in her novels is a fictional reproduction of the socio-political history of her country and age as witnessed and experienced by her as an insider. [...] Maureen Hetherington - whose surname ironically brings to mind the English counterpart of the South African veld that she so miserably fails to cope with in the course of her ordeal - in keeping with her liberal sensibility, did her utmost to "slough privilege" (8) and make July her "equal" by attributing him "dignity" and "friendly" status. [...]in her beneficence she acted merely as a "giver" and July as a "receiver" in which the latter had to constantly depend on the former for moral and financial support and sacrifice his culture and communal values to live up to her standards and expectations and not vice versa. Maureen is running because she has failed the moral test utterly and sees no hope of coming out of her past and bridging the gap that exists between her and July and their divergent cultures, and she is running towards the helicopter because with its civilized, urbanized, technological connotations the helicopter symbolizes her past and brings to her mind the memories of their life in Johannesburg. [...]she continues to run, balancing and jumping from boulder to boulder with the skill of a ballet-dancer that she had acquired in the city; Maureen has not changed at all, she is still the same woman who came to July's village after being evicted by the war from her usual habitat.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-71
Number of pages18
JournalEnglish Studies in Africa
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Nadine Gordimer
  • South Africa
  • fiction
  • Apatheid
  • White Liberal Attitude


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