English: As brief as a novella, and published years before D F Malherbe’s Die meulenaar (1926) and C M van den Heever’s Op die plaas (1927) — generally cited as the first Afrikaans pastoral novels — Bywoners (1919) by Jochem van Bruggen nevertheless shares many of the characteristics of the pastoral novel. This article focuses on Van Bruggen’s portrayal of the milieu: the representation of the farmhouses of the time and the spatial situation of houses and other farm buildings. It demonstrates that both this portrayal and its socio-critical implications are firmly anchored in the narrative. The depiction of labour and ethnic mobilisation is also examined in this regard. In conclusion, it is argued that Van Bruggen’s socio-critical and hence didactic objective in writing Bywoners was to effect a change in the mentality of the impoverished Afrikaners of his day.