The relationship between July and Maureen seems strained, like many of the relationships within July’s People by Nadine Gordimer. It would seem the Maureen tries to preserve an awkward balance of servant respect as well as chastisement, for lack of a better word. She seems to want to maintain a friendship with July, as she did with Lydia, but she feels that the traditional master-servant relationship should still be enforced strictly. As July arguably tries his best to maintain that difficult relationship, he still feels as though the Smales family owes him greatly for what he’s done for them. I would agree with July but I feel that his irrational way of going about getting what he deserves causes untimely conflict within the world of the novel.
In the scene between pages 71 and 73, July has confiscated the keys to the Bakkie, believing that he deserves the vehicle out of all the work he has done for the family within the Smales household. His feelings seem to really come out in this scene, that he doesn’t disapprove of their situation, but wishes Maureen would go about their relationship differently: “You looking everywhere, seeing if everything it’s still all right. Myself, I’m not say you’re not a good madam – but you don’t say you trust for me” (Gordimer, 70). As July continues, criticizing Bam and Maureen for certain mistreatments in his eyes, Maureen attempts to explain all of them out of the master-servant conflict in an attempt to relate to July as a man. “You worked for me everyday. I got on your nerves. So what. You got on mine. That’s how people are” (Gordimer, 71). There sort of marks a turning point in July’s demeanor. In his quick construction of a denial to servitude, he is blindsided by Maureen’s remark: “If all you can think about is what happened back there, what about Ellen?” (Gordimer, 72). Ellen is July’s “townwoman” and what seems like his mistress, or at the least another love interest than his wife. Maureen holds their relationship over July’s head for the keys to the Bakkie, but the tense scene ends with July becoming quiet, placing the keys in his pocket, and leaving the hut.