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Analysis of The Novel: 'Passed Like a Shadow'

Passed Like a Shadow is a narration of the events which led to the pandemic sexually transmitted disease, AIDS, slithing its way into Adyeri's and David's families.

The novel is centered on Adyeri, a husband and father, whose dictatorial style of leadership in his family, drunkenness and extra-marital affair led his family into severe poverty, disintegration of the family, and culminated in AIDS claiming some members of the family (including himself).

The families recounted in the novel are a representation of families that were affected by the invasion of HIV/AIDS in their families as a result of behaviours and/or attitudes of certain family members.

The novel is written by Bernard Mapalala, a Tanzanian author of both English and Kiswahili novels. It was published in 2006 by Dar es Salaam University Press. It's first reprinted in 2008 and later in 2009.

Stadisbiblioteket, Stockholm, Sweden

Stadisbiblioteket, Stockholm, Sweden

The Title of the Novel

The title of the novel, Passed Like a Shadow, when broken down, brings out a phrasal verb, Passed away, and the noun, Shadow.

Passed away is an euphemism word for 'died.' A shadow is a dark figure cast on the ground or an object when something intercepts the rays of sun from passing through.

One characteristic of a Shadow is that it doesn't exist for a lengthy time. It only lasts for some time before it evaporates into nothingness.

Thereby, in relation to the content of the novel, the title of the novel narrates the lives of individuals who died at a younger age or didn't accomplish anything (or much) in their lives. The second aspect of the definition is reiterated in a poetic-song performed by class five pupils of Kinyamasika Primary School during Parents' Day celebration. They sung,

What have I done in this world?

What memories shall I leave when I'm gone?

If memories I shall have are only those...

of having eaten and drunk;

I shall be ashamed; there is no honour in that;

And remembering you for the debts you leave behind;

It is curses which precede you on your journey;

Many people who die in anonymity;

They die in anonymity because the glorious things they did were eating, drinking and sleeping.

Then they crown their glory with death, a deed which is not hard even for the young on a breast.

That is having passed on this earth like a Shadow...

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Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm, Sweden

The Structure of the Novel


A sickly man boards a Daladala minibus at Kinondoni in Dar-es-Salaam. He alights from the vehicle at the Market, and heads to another one which will take him to the Referral Hospital. He struggles to walk; feeling very weak.

His friend, a laboratory technician at the hospital, is lost in thoughts; contemplating how he'll break the news he's infected with HIV. Feeling sad for his friend who had recently married, and had built a lavish house, the lab technician reflects on the words he'd been told by his uncle concerning the sexual transmitted disease, AIDS.

Chapter 1

Atwoki who had squatted to enjoy his matoke loses his appetite when he smells the tobacco smoke from his father's pipe, and notices him staggering while yelling at his sister, Abooki.

Fear gripping his heart, he makes a run to take cover under his bed. In the process of fleeing from his father, he bumps into his sister who was holding a tray containing their father's meal.

The children look fearfully at their father as he bubbles out words in anger. Taking pleasure at the display of fear visible on their faces, he lits up his pipe, and then calls Atwoki.

Atwoki doesn't understand what his father means by calling him, "You!" He calls him again before he asks him how many times he's to call him.

Adyeri slaps him in the face which sends the boy to the floor after hitting the over-cracked wall.

Amoti arrives to find his son on the floor. She confronts him but he is irked at the intensity of her lecturing him. He pounces on her before he lits his pipe, and leaves the house; banging the door.

Chapter 2

Atwoki who is standing outside their house on a Saturday morning, sees his cousin, Vicky, with another man coming towards their home. Filled with joy at the sight of his cousin, he runs to her.