July's People

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Curriculet Details
49 Questions
50 Annotations
3 Quizzes

This free digital curriculum for high school students contains interactive videos exploring diction and point of view, as well as annotations describing figurative language, syntax, and dialogue. Students will explore the themes of equality and power. The Common Core aligned questions, answers and quizzes in this free online unit will increase student engagement in the book while supporting reading comprehension. Teachers, because of graphic language, references to anatomy, as well as descriptions of violence, please read this text prior to instructing students.

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Notice the language "his kind" and "her kind." The author immediately draws our attention to the notion of "separateness." Since the novel will explore the issue of apartheid, this idea of "separateness" will likely emerge as a major theme throughout the text.  
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What does the highlighted detail suggest about Maureen and her family?  

The vehicle was a

The author, Nadine Gordimer, is a South African writer who wrote this novel in 1981, before the end of apartheid. As such, this novel will explore what she thought might happen amid the many conflicts during this time period. As you read, you will encounter some "imagined" consequences of apartheid mixed with elements of historical reality. To gain more insight into the true history of apartheid, which the brief video explanation below:  (This annotation contains a video)
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What is the purpose of this paragraph?  
Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently. Is there a word on this page you need to look up?  
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How is July characterized thus far and what does the author imply about both July and the Smales family with this highlighted detail?  
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Where is the Smales family going?  
Observe how the author uses dash marks (instead of quotation marks) to indicate dialogue. This is likely a stylistic choice, as a dash is not traditionally used in this manner. Watch the following video on the dash to understand its traditional purpose and effects. Why do you think Gordimer breaks with tradition in her use of this punctuation?  (This annotation contains a video)
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What literary device does the author utilize in the highlighted line?  

Adresser made of box-wood

The author describes a great disconnect here. There is a disconnect between Maureen and July's wife, as Maureen sends gifts that are presumably useless in this tiny village of "mud huts." And, in another way, the author shows us a disconnect between July and his family. July is absent and away from his family for extended periods, and he is subsequently described as having a "town woman" (mistress). How do these examples of disconnect highlight some of the larger issues of separateness taking place in the novel?  

Why do they come

July tries to explain to his wife here that the Smales family has no where else to go. In reality, this did not actually happen to white families in South Africa--keep in mind that this book explores what Gordimer thought might happen before apartheid ended. To examine more of what actually happened to bring apartheid to a close, read the following brief article:  (This annotation contains a link)
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Refer to the previous annotation to read the explanation of what occurred prior to the end of apartheid in South Africa. Identify three specific differences between Gordimer's rendition of events versus what actually happened in reality. Provide direct quotations from both the article and the novel to support your response.  
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Why will there "be no money coming every month"?  
The reader learns that July's family has experienced starkly different living conditions than the Smales family. What do you imagine when you picture July's family's hut? To view a potential example of the type of home he might have, look at an example of a South African hut in Swaziland, shown below:  (This annotation contains an image)

Bam could help July

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Based on the context clues, what is most likely the definition of the word "kraals" as it is used in this passage?  
Notice how the money is described as "bits of paper." In this environment, there is nothing to really buy with money; therefore, the author uses these words to show that the money has lost some of its previous value or significance.  
What is the significance of the title "boss boy" on the plaque? Watch the following video on denotations and connotations... What is the connotation associated with the word "boy" and why does the author bring this to our attention?  (This annotation contains a video)
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Why does the author include the detail of "boss boy" when describing the plaque? 
"Herrenvolk" is a term used in Nazi ideology that essentially means "master race."  
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What is the author's purpose in highlighting this memory of Maureen and her caretaker, Lydia?  

At least for Ban

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Analyze why the author includes these details. What is the significance of the fact that July may have taken some of the small items from the Smales' home? Furthermore, what is the significance of Maureen's revelation about "things" here?  
Take a moment to watch the following video on point of view. From what point of view is this novel being told? How does this point of view influence your understanding of the text?  (This annotation contains a video)
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What does Bam realize when he thinks that he "is a boy with a pea-shooter"?  
What does this detail suggest about the priorities and personalities of Maureen and Bam?  
A non sequitur is a statement (or conclusion) that does not logically follow the previous statement.  
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What does the highlighted paragraph reveal regarding Bam's feelings towards Maureen?  
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Notice the connotations here... Maureen and Bam are clearly fighting, yet the author chooses to include words with more positive connotations such as "embrace." How does the author's use of diction and connotations show the complications of Bam and Maureen's relationship here? Provide at least two specific examples to support your response.  
Watch the following video on literal versus figurative language, and then examine the highlighted excerpt to identify the examples figurative language (specifically note any metaphors or similes as you examine this passage).  (This annotation contains a video)
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What literary technique does the author employ here to highlight the feelings between Maureen and Bam in this moment?  
Notice the rich imagery and description at the close of this chapter. What does the author want us to understand here?  

Her husband was pumping

Auckland Park is a suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa. The picture below shows what Auckland Park looked like around the year 2012.  (This annotation contains an image)
Notice how the author conveys these thoughts with a long, uninterrupted paragraph. There is no dialogue and no breaks in the structure. Why does the author present these thoughts in this manner? How does her use of punctuation and syntax highlight the central ideas / feelings expressed in this excerpt?  
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Notice the diction, connotations, and syntax (punctuation) here. Which of the following words best describes how Bam is feeling towards July in this scene?  
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Why does the author include the detail that Maureen will "ask July" for bricks?  

There was the moment

Watch the following video on symbolism. Do you think the keys to the car (or the car itself) might serve as symbols in this novel? What might these objects represent?  (This annotation contains a video)
The author shows us this dialogue to highlight the shifting balance of power. Based on the words here, who now possesses more power--Bam or July? How does this balance of power highlight the author's interpretation of apartheid in this novel?  
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Why does the author include this conversation about the medicine for Royce?  
Recall how Bam set up the water tank earlier in the novel. Here, Victor seems to believe that, because of his dad's effort, the water belongs to his family. What is your reaction to this?  
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Explain the author's purpose for including the conflict about the water. What does Victor's belief that the water belongs to his family highlight about the thoughts and beliefs of apartheid? Furthermore, how does this conflict over water connect with one (or more) of the central themes in the novel? Provide at least two specific examples from the text to support your response.  
Quiz 1 

Always a moody bastard

Notice how Gina, as well as the other children, assimilate into this new culture. Why might the author want to show us how the children respond to their new environment?  
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The highlighted line shows an example of  
Why does Maureen feel a "meanness of something hidden under stone" here? What does the author describe to reflect this feeling? 
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What do the keys most likely symbolize here?  
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What does "her victory" refer to here?  
The author describes July putting the keys in his pocket before walking away. How does this description tie in with the concept that the keys likely symbolize power? In other words, who now holds the power here?  

The white man had

Make an inference... Why would this man laugh "at white ignorance" when Bam asked if he had ever shot a gun?  
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The author provides specific examples to showcase how power has shifted from one group of people to another. For example, what does it mean when Bam and Maureen realize that they must "give them the bigger one"? Provide two additional examples that show a new shifting of power in the novel thus far. How does the author use these examples to highlight the issues and struggles of apartheid and prejudice?  
Once again, observe how Gina adapts to her new environment.  
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Which of the following best describes the mood in this scene?  

Good meant, mhani

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To whom does "they" refer in the line "they will bring trouble"?  
The highlighted paragraph provides us with more insight into what July's wife, Martha, was forced to endure while July worked for the Smales family. What does this description help to reveal about her as a character? Watch the following video on character development to gain more insight into how the author subtly provides the reader with insight into a character's personality.  (This annotation contains a video)
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Take a moment to review the chapter. Summarize the events and central ideas from this chapter and identify the author's central purpose here. What does the author want us to learn or understand from this chapter? Provide at least two examples from the text to support your response.  

The clay vessels Maureen

It is important to be aware of the fact that prejudice and stereotypes are learned attitudes--not inherent beliefs. With this in mind, the author provides the reader with specific moments to highlight the children's various attitudes towards people of a different race or culture. In what ways are some of the children already adopting social prejudice and in what ways are some of the children still innocent and unbiased?  
A barbel is a type of freshwater fish, shown below. (This annotation contains an image)
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What is the purpose of the dashes in the highlighted lines here?  
To whom do you think Bam refers when he questions "Why didn't you get one of them to do it?" What does this highlight about his ability to adjust to his new role in this society?  

At first the women

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The author describes how Maureen wanders to the truck "only because it was somewhere else." What does this detail reveal about Maureen's feelings and desires?  
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Re-read the highlighted passage and consider the following question: In the line "the young man was propelled by it down into the valley," what does the "it" refer to?  
Why do you think the author chooses to include the word "child" here? What does this suggest about the misunderstanding of the social roles and duties in this society?  
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What is the purpose of the simile in the highlighted line?  
Why does Gordimer highlight the word "him" here? How does this add emphasis and meaning to this excerpt?  
The Smales must go to the chief to ask for permission to stay. July asserts "That is our law." Consider the laws here in the United States in contrast to the "laws" of July's people. Specifically, visit the site below to read the original text of the "Civil Rights Act," established in 1964, which legally outlawed discrimination based on race, religion, color, sex, or national origin.  (This annotation contains a link)
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Refer to the previous annotation to read "The Civil Rights Act" of 1964. Do you think the principles of the "Civil Rights Act" are still respected and upheld in American society today? Additionally, how do you think these characters in this novel, both the Smales as well as the people in July's village, would have responded to "The Civil Rights Act" if it had been enacted in South Africa during this time period? Provide at least three specific examples to support your response.  

Bam rose from the

It is rather interesting that July might be "afraid" of this small power that Maureen possesses. Since Maureen, as well as the rest of her family, are basically powerless in this new environment and circumstance, why do you think the author wants us to see that Maureen still has a tiny amount of power with July? Furthermore, do you think this is a "real" type of power or is it more of a exaggerated or imagined "power"?  
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What purpose does the detail about the "un-ironed clothes" serve here?  
Notice how the author emphasizes the sense of people or things being 'out of place' here. For example, Gordimer states that the "vehicle followed cattle tracks," suggesting that cars are not common in this area. What does the author include here to bring your attention to this concept? 
Quiz 2 

They sat in the

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Why does the author include the highlighted details and imagery here?  
A kgotla is a public meeting or traditional law court. A kgotla is especially common in villages in Botswana, and is typically headed by the village chief or headman. In these meetings, community decisions are always reached by consensus. 
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How does Gordimer highlight the separation between the villagers versus the Smales family here?  
The author subtly provides the reader with a definition of "sangomas" here. Re-read the highlighted paragraph... How would you define "sangomas" in your own words? 
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Why does Gordimer note that the discussion was "no different here from anywhere else, the rituals of power"? What does she mean by this line and how does this statement connect to the larger theme of power and authority as presented throughout the novel thus far?  
Note the summary of events here... Keep in mind that Gordimer has fictionalized the "history" in many instances... Based on what you know of apartheid, what part of this information is true and what is fiction?  
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Why does the author repeat the words "us and them" here?  
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What is meant by the line "she changed nakedly like a chameleon before them"? 
Examine the diction and connotations here... How are Bam and Maureen feeling after this interaction? What is the mood?  

In the vehicle they

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Why does the author include details about where characters are sitting and who holds the keys to the truck? 
Notice the imagery, diction, and connotations... What does the author want us to understand here? 
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The author italicizes the word "Americans" to add emphasis to the word. Why does Gordimer want the reader to consider this word "Americans" with additional emphasis?  
Watch the following video on internal and external conflict and examine the conflict that Gordimer introduces in the subsequent pages.  (This annotation contains a video)
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Refer to the previous annotation to watch the video on internal and external conflict and evaluate the discussion regarding July at the end of this chapter. What type of conflict do Maureen and Bam face here? In what ways is this conflict internal and external? Provide at least two examples from the text to support your response.  

The white woman did

Notice how Gordimer refers to Maureen as "the white woman" and "she" here, refraining from the use of her name. What is the effect of this rhetorical choice?  
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Examine the highlighted paragraph. What advantage does the reader have with the use of this third person perspective, as especially notable in this excerpt?  
The mood and tone shifts frequently in this text. Watch the following video on mood and tone; how would you characterize the mood here?  (This annotation contains a video)
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To what does the word "it" refer in the line "he broke it"?  
What is the purpose of this closing paragraph? What does the author want us to understand here?  

A man in short

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How does the author's use of diction and language here highlight the children's ability to assimilate to their new environment? Furthermore, how does the author's diction and language convey the mood in this paragraph?  
Imagine Maureen's feeling of helplessness here. What causes her to suddenly recognize that she is not in "possession of any part of her life"? 
Gordimer alludes to the title of her novel here... Why does she refer to the Smales family as "July's white people"?  

If he hadn't been

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Gordimer describes how Bam's hands "shook, actually shook." What word might best describe how he feels upon realizing his gun is missing?  
The author alludes to Madonna (the Virgin Mary) and "pieta," which is a subject in art wherein the artist depicts the Virgin Mary holding the deceased body of Jesus. View an example of this with the rendition of Michelangelo's famous sculpture "Pieta" (shown below). Why does the author offer these references here?  (This annotation contains an image)
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The argument between Maureen and Bam shows an example of  
Why does the author rely heavily on dialogue here? What is the effect of this interaction? 
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Consider the significance of the gun. What do you think the gun symbolizes? What is the symbolic significance or meaning of the gun being stolen (or missing)? 
Why does the author have Maureen repeat this line, "You've got to get it back"? 
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Why might July suddenly begin "to talk at her in his own language"? 
Maureen realizes her lack of "freedom" in the sense that she is totally dependent upon July. During the fight for civil rights and equality in the United States, many citizens lost their freedom while engaging in protests and demonstrations. Specifically, read Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail," wherein he argues for justice and freedom while writing from a jail cell. How do you think King would respond to Maureen's struggles here?  (This annotation contains a link)
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Refer to the previous annotation to read Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail." Summarize three of the central arguments from his letter and examine how King would respond to Maureen's struggles at the end of this chapter. What do you think King would say to Maureen?  

The mists of the

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Why does the author specifically state that "she could not have said what colour it was, what markings it had, whether it holds saviors or murderers"?  
Quiz 3 
The ending of Gordimer's novel is intentionally ambiguous, as the lack of clarity allows for the reader to decipher a meaning based on one's own perceptions and interpretation. What is your interpretation of the ending of the novel?