Summary and Analysis of The Novel: Passed Like a Shadow
Passed Like a Shadow is a novel written by Bernard Mapalala, a Tanzanian author. The book was first published in 2006.
The novel chronicles how the slim disease, HIV/AIDS slithered its way into Adyeri’s and David’s families and the resultant effects of its intrusion in both families.
The Significance of the Title of the Book
The title of the novel derives its heading from a song presented by class five pupils of Kinyamasika Primary School during Parents’ Day celebration at the school. Through the poem the pupils posed an interesting sentimental question: Which memories will a person leave behind when he dies? Which kind of life did the person live? If the person spent his life drinking, eating, sleeping and borrowing money without repaying the debts, the person will have ‘passed like a shadow.’
Literary, when analyzing a shadow, it will become palpable it doesn’t exist for long. It only lasts for a shorter time due to light which doesn’t persist for long. In the same manner, people portrayed in the book don’t live long to enjoy their lives. For instance, Atwoki, Vicky and David died at a young age as they plummeted in the grip of the slim disease.
Metaphorically, the novel depicts the author’s intended meaning of the title of the book. The author engages the readers in logical reasoning whether it matters how one lives his/her life. When you die which memories will you leave behind you? What will people remember about you? What kind of impact will you leave behind when you die?
The Structure of the Novel
The novel starts with a prologue. It narrates a man who is heading to a referral hospital in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. The man looks weak as he struggles to walk.
At the hospital, a lab technician is nervous how he will deliver the bad news to his ailing friend. He feels sad for his friend.
Atwoki who has squatted to enjoy his meal which has been cooked by his sister hears his father quarreling with Abooki (his sister) in the house. Fear creeps in his heart. He figures the only way to escape the wrath of his father is to run and hide himself under the cover of his bed. He bumps into his sister who is carrying a tray containing their father’s meal. The crush results in the food - the rare meat, matoke, rice and soup - scattered all over the place.
Adyeri points a finger at Atwoki, “You.” He calls Atwoki again, “You.” It perplexes Atwoki why his father is calling him “You” while pointing a finger at him without saying what he wants from him. He asks Atwoki how many times he has to call him. He fumes, “Atwoki, come here...” When Atwoki draws near, he is slapped by his father. The impact of the slap blurs his vision resulting in the boy hitting against the over-cracked wall and falling onto the floor.
Amoti walks in the house in time to find her son on the floor. She puts down the water jerry can she’s carrying and confronts her husband, Adyeri.
“What type of man are you? Do you think that this child is of your equal? Why do you give him such man-sized beatings? Do you think he will love you when he grows up? Why don’t you fight with people of your age if you are really such a fighter...”
Adyeri jumps on Amoti and beats her as he can’t bear her lecture. Atwoki is kicked on the stomach as he attempts to save his mother while Abooki cries.
He leaves and doesn’t return that night.
Vicky, Adyeri’s niece has come back home (at his uncle’s house) with a man by her side. Atwoki who had noticed Vicky from a distance runs to greet her. Amoti who is doing something on the corridor of the house gets irritated at seeing Vicky and her man holding each other’s hands. She welcomes them but doesn’t bother to direct them to the sitting room. Vicky does that job. Instead, Amoti heads to the bedroom to notify Adyeri of Vicky’s return and the new male visitor she has come with.
Vicky was left in the care of her uncle after her mother (Adyeri’s sister) had died. She had nowhere to go but to her uncle’s home because her mother never revealed to her who her father was. On one particular day, Vicky was riding a bicycle. His uncle noticed it and became mad. He chased her away as he considered it indecent for a girl to ride a bicycle.
Adyeri tells Amoti to call Vicky. Instead of calling her, she asks Atwoki to call her. Adyeri asks about the man. Amoti insists she won’t accept Vicky to get married to a man outside of their tribe. Adyeri says he doesn’t care who will marry Vicky as long as he pays the dowry. It is agreed when Akena should come back.
Akena comes on the agreed day with his team comprising three men while Adyeri’s team awaiting Akena’s team consists of five men. Akena will be introduced officially culminating in the negotiation of the bride price.
Things don’t go as Vicky had anticipated. Adyeri refuses Akena’s side of the bargain regarding the bride price. Vicky hates Adyeri for his greediness and Amoti who is joyous the process hasn’t gone well.
On this particular day, Uncle Araali visits Adyeri’s family. As usual, the children’s parents are not at home. In such occasions, Abooki takes up the responsibility of doing the house chores including cooking food. Abooki and Atwoki are in class two.
Araali has brough the children some gifts - sweets and biscuits. He has also brought them Uganda’s favourite dish, matoke including fish, white ants and small mushrooms. He gives Abooki money to buy firewood so she can prepare food as she and her brother are hungry.
Adyeri arrives when the food is ready. He asks his daughter where she got the fish from. He feels embarrassed that the visitor has to foot the bill in his home. He wishes he was a rich man or a millionaire. He tries walking soberly as drunk as he is, singing Uganda’s national anthem as he heads to the sitting room to greet the visitor.
Vicky had been sent to Bundibugoyo by Atwoki’s parents to work as a plucker for three months in a tree plantation. The earnings from her work were directly sent to Amoti to pay for Atwoki’s and Abooki’s school fees.
After three months, she returns to Fort Portal from Kampala. She meets up with her two friends from the region, Tusiime and Kunihira.
They reveal to her why her uncle was fired from his job as headmaster of St. Leo’s High School. They were the ones who taught Vicky how to ride a bike which saw her chased away from her second home.
They persuade Vicky to get herself a big fish (a rich man). Vicky insists she doesn’t want to get pregnant nor lose her reputation. After some convincing from her friends, Vicky accepts their friends’ proposal to get herself a fat-cat.
Her change in clothes, shoes and facial makeup is noticed by Amoti and Adyeri. Amoti complains but to no avail while Adyeri watches helplessly as rich people come to pick up Vicky. Engaging herself in prostitution, she acts as the bread winner in Adyeri’s family. She even silences Adyeri and a truce is formed between the two - she buys him hard drinks and crates of beer. Things take a dramatic turn when Adyeri assaults one of Vicky’s sugar daddies who has come to pick her up. Two weeks after the incidence, Vicky leaves her uncle’s home with all her belongings.
Abooki and Atwoki have completed their primary school education. Adyeri has been invited to Kinyamasika Primary School to attend Parents’ Day occasion. He had been one of the pioneer teachers at the school thus he was invited on merit. He doesn’t wait till the occasion comes to a close. He goes back to his deserted home.
Adyeri, a former headmaster at St. Leon’s High School couldn’t hold back from having extra-marital affair with the school’s secretary, Birungi. When Adyeri hadn’t turned up at his family’s home at Kachwamba for a month, Amoti heads to the school where her husband works to enquire from him why he had been absent for a month. She storms in the staffroom despite the fact the staff are in a meeting. She engages Adyeri in a hot exchange of words. Birungi slides away from her office and disappears to save herself from the wrath of Amoti. Soon after, the old bishop who oversees the schools dismisses Adyeri from the school.
Adyeri searches for a part-time job as a teacher in the local schools but at the end no school in Fort Portal wants to employ him due to his drinking behaviour. Having no job, Adyeri sells half of his inherited land. Amoti objects to it but Adyeri silences her by telling her if she thinks he has no decision to make on his land she should pack and leave.
After selling a piece of his land, he moves from his home to stay with Birungi at her place. Whenever he is late from leaving the bar he frequents and there is no transport to take him to Burungu where Birungi stays, he goes to sleep at his family’s home in Kachwamba.
Before long, Adyeri is admitted at Virika Hospital for tuberculosis treatment. Adyeri learns he is infected with HIV/AIDS known as slim by the local people.
When he is released from the hospital, he goes back to Burungu because Amoti and the children had deserted their home at kachwamba and he is too weak to look after himself. He receives a cold reception from Birungi who is angry at him. She is also infected with the slim disease. All his clothes are bundled in an old bag and thrown at him. He remains outside the door for several hours before policemen come to take him to his abandoned home in Kachwamba.
Atwoki, a gifted footballer known as Fort Port Bullet drove the national team of Uganda into victory against Egypt in the final African Cup of Nations by scoring two goals. He had gained fame as an incredible footballer while still a high school student at St. Leon’s Secondary School.
Back at their new home in Katumba Village near Kachwamba, Atwoki is chatting with his sister and mother. Thanks to Atwoki’s involvement in the Uganda national football team, he has managed to build a new home for his mother and sister.
They hear a knock at the door. An elderly woman rushes in to beg Amoti to take in her husband who’s suffering from AIDS. As the elderly woman is pleading, they hear a car breaking outside followed by shouts.
Adyeri is brought out of the car on a stretcher. Atwoki directs the men to take him at a room at the end of the house. Atwoki and Abooki weep at the miserable sight of their father. Amoti has hard feelings for her husband. She considers her husband a burden to take care of.
Literary Genres and Subgenres (Fiction, Nonfiction, Drama, and Poetry) - Video and Worksheet
David, Atwoki’s new friend from Kampala invites him to visit him in Kampala. They had met in a football training camp in Kampala. Atwoki had already completed his high school education.
David is living in his father’s posh home in Makindye. A Makerere university reject (after repeating several exams and failing) he convinces Atwoki to enjoy life - sleeping with girls. One particular girl approaches him as he’s chatting with David in a restaurant. David convinces Atwoki to get in touch with her and before he leaves Kampala to travel back home, he has slept with the girl, Edna several times.
Vicky had hooked up with a rich businessman, Aliganyira who owned a fleet of long distance trucks.
For the past ten years they had been together, Vicky has never conceived a child. With pressure mounting from her husband’s relatives to ditch Vicky if she doesn’t bear him a child, her husband comes with a plan to visit a local witch doctor.
They leave their home a few minutes after midnight. Before the procession goes on at the witch-doctor’s ward, Aliganyira has to cough out a million shillings.
The witch doctor orders Vicky to take off her clothes. He caresses Vicky’s stomach before piercing her stomach with a small sharp knife. Desperate for a baby and frightened at the thought of being infected with HIV/AIDS, she bears the pain as the witch doctor draws tattoos on her stomach.
Elements of Fiction & Nonfiction
Amoti is succumbing to the virus disease. Adyeri had passed a few months earlier.
Abooki is left with the task of nursing her dying mother. Atwoki had gone to Kampala after the burial of his father. He had only sent money once which wasn’t enough. He has never communicated with his sister back at home or visited his sister and mother for the three months he has been in Kampala. Abooki requests Atwoki’s fans who frequent Kampala to tell her brother to go back home because their mother is sick and there’s no money. The fans come back home with the news Atwoki is living with a lady thus it was difficult for them to meet him.
One day Abooki visits her cousin, Vicky to ask for financial help. She leaves her mother in the care of her neighbours. She is astonished to find Vicky living in a depressing state – she and her husband are infected with the virus disease.
They talk until late at night. Vicky gives Abooki a good amount of money and advices her not to go after money; she’s better off being married to a beggar than a rich man.
Abooki has a male friend, John whose parents are rich. John would give Abooki some money and presents which assisted her in running the home.
One day she’s invited by John at his family’s home. She accepts the invitation because she doesn’t want to disappoint him. This coupled with his gentleness and honesty, Abooki believes John can’t do anything evil against her. She takes precaution not to engage in any action that may put her at risk of getting the disease or pregnant. She declines the offer of beer preferring soda. Despite her vigilance she finds herself naked in John’s bed the following morning.
Abooki becomes joyful after her blood test results turn negative. However for his brother it is a different story. He is HIV positive. He wasn’t even available at Katumba Village to bury his mother. David, his parents and the housemaid were also infected with the disease. David’s father had passed away.
Abooki welcomes her brother. She doesn’t condemn him and asks him whether they could pay their uncle a visit. Atwoki feels guilty knowing he hadn’t helped their uncle despite the fact he had catered for their educational needs. His sister comforts him that Uncle Araali won’t condemn him. Uncle Araali who lives in Kitagwenda on top of a hill is joyous to see Atwoki.
The following are the subject matters that have been highlighted by the author in the novel:
1. Autocratic Rule/Dictatorship
Adyeri ruled his family with an iron-fist hand. His children had developed an inbuilt fear of him. When Atwoki heard his father quarreling with his sister, the fear of his father gripped his heart. To escape his father’s rage, he ran and hid himself under the cover of his bed. In running to take cover under his bed, he bumps into Abooki who is carrying daddy’s meal. The food splatters on the floor. Even though it was an accident, Adyeri believes the children did it because they were siding with their mother to make his life miserable.
The children were aware what would happen next - the cane. They were accustomed to such a phenomenon that their father resorted to using the cane even for the slightest mistake.
Adyeri took pleasure at the fearful expression on the faces of their children. “Daddy stood poisedly, his hands in his pocket. He enjoyed the sudden silence which had spread all over the place. He enjoyed knowing that his children feared him like hell. It gave him a sense of self satisfaction, a sense of royalty and aristocracy. He felt himself a complete master.”
Amoti, the children’s mother and Adyeri’s wife, arrives on time to find her son lying on the floor. Amoti confronts her husband. “Do you want to kill the boy… What type of man are you? Do you think that this child is of your equal? Why do you give him such man-sized beatings? Do you think he will love you when he grows up? Why don’t you fight with people of your age if you are really such a fighter?”
Amoti isn’t lucky too as Adyeri jumps on her and beats her. Before Adyeri lays a finger on her, she tells him, “Dare you touch me. Dare you lay a finger on me and you’ll regret, I tell you. What type of man are you, who always want to fight with a woman? Shame on you, Adyeri. Shame on you.” For a man to beat his wife, it insinuates that the man thinks he’s power or influence over the woman. It portrays the dominance of a man’s ego.
In another scenario, Amoti is against Vicky being married to a man outside their tribe. Vicky persists he wants to get married to the man. Nevertheless, Adyeri retorts, “I’m the only person who puts on trousers in the room. I’m the one to make a decision.” This clearly paints a picture that Amoti doesn’t have a say in contributing to decisions that concern the family. It’s Adyeri who arrives at the final decision which spells out his autocratic rule in the family.
2. Spread of HIV/AIDS
This is the major theme in the novel. The novel starts with a prologue of a man who heads to the referral hospital in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to meet his friend who works there. The man struggles to walk. He is feeling very weak. His friend who works as a laboratory technician in the hospital is nervous, not knowing how to deliver the sad message to him once he arrives at the hospital that he is infected with the virus. Ironically, the disease unites both Tanzania and Uganda which had failed to unite at politically and economically. The lab technician remembers what his uncle told him as he waits for his sick friend to arrive: “My son, our countries have failed to unite. But this time death will do the job. The disease will kill all the people in Uganda and Tanzania. No one is going to be spared...even the borders shall be wiped away by the suffering because people will cross this or that way to burry or just to die on the other side.”
Adyeri’s family is also infected and affected by the intrusion of the disease. Adyeri becomes the first one to be infected. A womanizer and an always drunkard man, he is infected with the disease by a toothless woman. In turn, he infects his wife and his mistress (unknowingly). Atwoki too becomes infected in Kampala when he lives with a young lady he barely knows who infects him.
David’s family has also been infected by the disease. Living a lavish lifestyle and exchanging women like clothes, David and his father get infected with the disease. This includes David’s mother and the housemaid. It is alleged the house help infected David and his father and his father (unknowingly) infected his wife.
Lastly, Vicky an unfortunate girl who had undergone harsh times under the care of her uncle and his wife is also infected with the disease including her husband. When Abooki visits her to request for financial aid, she tells her, “I am going to die...I am an AIDS victim. I don’t know how I acquired it, but I have got it.”
David having learned that he is infected with the virus disease takes upon himself to revenge by infecting as many girls as he could. Feeling angry at being infected, he vows to himself that he will drive others to the grave by infecting them with the disease through sexual intercourse.
"As for David, things were just as bad because his flamboyant dad had perished and now his mother and the attractive house-girl were on their death beds. People murmured that it was the house-girl who had caused it all. David was so enraged by the catastrophe that had befallen him that he did his best to spread the infection to as many unsuspecting girls as he could catch."
Vicky’s friends at Fort Portal convinced her that she should engage herself with a rich man to improve her standard of living. This is after her uncle refused her to get married to Akena because the man couldn’t meet the bride price he had set.
Despite her objections she doesn’t want to get pregnant and wants to protect her reputation, the girls laugh her off. Kunihira annoyed says, “Reputation? Now what is your reputation? Is being a virgin a reputation? If you would be a minister, or a landlady, or a tea factory owner, I would call that reputation. You say reputation? Is your reputation now feeding you? Look how your dress is, you must be the most poorly dressed girl in Fort Portal.”
Tusiime interjects, “As for me, I shall sleep with any man to makes money. Life is not easy. There is no short-cut. Even girls who are university graduates are doing it...Beauty can make your life different. Think of it Vicky, it is time you made some smart move. Put your love for sale and forget about your uncle.”
That night Vicky thought what her friends had advised her and concluded she needs to look for a big fish (a rich person) to save her from her miserable life. She wooed rich men who came to pick her up at her uncle’s home. Later, she left her uncle’s home to live with a rich man whom she had hooked up with. She got married to the wealthy businessman whom she didn’t love. She was in the relationship for the purpose of living a life she had wanted. A life she had dreamed of because her uncle and Amoti treated her harshly until she reached a breakdown point wishing her mother was alive.
Her friends, Tusiime and Kunihira benefited from prostitution (in their view) in diverse ways one of them being the two owned a tailoring shop in Kachwamba. The business was financed by someone but as is the case with Vicky, we don’t know who the person is. Maybe it is the white man who is the boyfriend of Kasiime though he is a married man.
In fact, Tusiime mysteriously managed to pay her schools fees and becoming one of the best dressed girls in Maria Goretti Secondary. This happened after her studies were discontinued in the school as she was involved in leading students to burn some mattresses at the school. Her family was poor thus how did she manage to pay the fees and dress very well?
When Abooki visits her cousin to request for financial assistance, she is advised by Vicky, “My dear sister, I wish to counsel you on one thing. Don’t go after money...Don’t go after money. Money will kill you. You better get married to a beggar.”
Reading and Preparing to Write a Literary Analysis
Adyeri’s family is living an impoverished life which Adyeri has largely contributed to it. Most of his salary is spent in drinking and buying for his friends drinks. He has a mistress who he helps to set up a shop by financing it. He even sells a half of his inherited land to further finance his mistress’ shop.
The children rarely enjoy the delicacy of meat. They rarely eat. They don’t even have their own radio. Uncle Araali, a generous and kindhearted man used to visit the family bringing with him gifts for the children and some foodstuff. In fact, he was the one who paid for the children’s high school education.
When Abooki suggests to an infected Atwoki they should visit their uncle, Atwoki replies, “How can I go there, while I’d neglected the man who paid for my education during my best days?”
6. Erosion of Moral Conduct/Moral Decay
When David invites Atwoki to visit his family, Atwoki is flabbergasted at what he observes in the stylish home of the wealthy family. “Atwoki was given a room in the visitors’ quarters. The room was full of pictures of half-naked women. On the table there was a pile of pornographic magazines.”
Despite David’s father being a married man, he’s ‘sleeping’ with girls. This also applies to Adyeri. Both men engage in extra-marital affair to the point Adyeri moves in to stay with his mistress, neglecting his wife and children.
David enjoys the pleasure of having sex with girls. He encourages Atwoki to take pleasure in ‘sleeping’ with girls.
After Adyeri’s death, his drinking pals as always meet at their favourite bar, Tonto Club in Kachwamba. Their talk revolves around Adyeri and his death and about the virus disease. One of them remarks, “Aha, but people have always died since the beginning of the world until now. For me, I’ll go on enjoying life. I am not a mahogany tree to be preserved for harvest. I am an active man. I must put my sexuality to use.” This is the extent of decay of moral principles.
The author has depicted the results of being under the influence of alcohol. One of the consequences of being intoxicated with alcohol is that a person loses his reasoning capacity. Additionally, the person becomes addicted to alcohol because of its addictive nature to the extent the person believes he can’t survive without it.
Adyeri’s wife and children had become accustomed to his drunkenness nature. In chapter one, his drunkenness state makes little Atwoki to want to hide from his presence. “The father appeared from nowhere. Atwoki had just squatted to enjoy his matoke, the banana meal which was accompanied by groundnut sauce, when his nostrils unmistakably detected the notorious tobacco smell from his daddy’s pipe. As his sensory hair stood all over his body he heard his father already quarreling with somebody in the house ... Daddy was staggering as he spoke. Atwoki’s appetite was lost immediately when he saw his father. The man was very drunk; his trousers were wet and dirty. There was a lot of mud on his clothes to indicate that he had slipped and fallen on the wet ground several times over before he reached home.”
When Adyeri was fired as the headmaster at St. Leon’s Secondary School, the other schools declined to employ him because of his drinking behaviour. This forced him to sell a half of his land as he had no other means of earning income.
His drunkenness behaviour drove his family into a pit of poverty. He was no longer the respected teacher and headmaster. In fact, his drinking stupor led him to sleep with street women since the influence of alcohol overpowered his logical reasoning. Not knowing who he was sleeping with, he got infected with HIV virus. In turn, he infected his wife.
Abooki trusted John who comes from a rich family. He would bring her gifts and money which helped Abooki in running the home after Atwoki ignored his sister and ailing mother.
Abooki never thought John would do something against her that is immoral. She thought of him as a gentle and honest man. Even so, she took precautions such as refusing the offer of beer. Nonetheless, John dropped a valium tablet in her glass when she went to the bathroom for a short call. After drinking her glass of soda, she lost her senses not knowing she was drugged. When she woke up the next morning, she found herself naked and sleeping on John’s bed. Feeling ashamed (dirty) and crying, she couldn’t believe John could do something like that.
The novel includes acts of kindness or generosity.
Uncle Araali would visit Adyeri’s family with gifts for the children and some foodstuffs such as matoke or mushroom.
John despite betraying Abooki’s trust on him would bring Abooki gifts and some money. One would wonder whether his ‘kind’ intention was genuine or it was a means to create an environment to engage in the bestiality act (against Abooki’s wishes to ‘sleep’ with him).
Some football fans of Atwoki gave Abooki some money once or twice (Abooki couldn’t remember how many times).
Adyeri exhibits a personality trait of selfishness/greediness. He is only concerned about himself and not for the needs/concerns of Vicky and Akena. He has a selfish desire to be rich not caring about other’s needs or limitations.
Adyeri becomes interested in Vicky when he learns that her man whom she wants to introduce owns a motor garage. He believes he has hit a jackpot if it’s true Vicky’s man owns a garage. He feels ‘his fortune was soon to change with the looming huge dowry.’
Amoti is against Vicky being married by a man outside their tribe. However, Adyeri doesn’t care who will marry Vicky as long as the man will pay the dowry on Adyeri’s terms - leave it or take it. He says, “I don’t care who marries Vicky, whether it’s a person, a cow or a donkey. All I want is the dowry. I’ll fix the bride-price, and this man will cough it out.”
Things don’t turn out as Vicky had expected. Adyeri had refused to compromise his fixed bride price. He was “adamant not to receive a cow or a penny less. On his side, Akena was only ready to pay the maximum of two cows only.”
“Inside her heart, she burnt with anger against what she imagined to her a greedy uncle.”
Amoti had been late to arrive at home because she was busily involved in gossiping about a shopkeeper’s wife with a friend of hers. This depicts Amoti as a gossipmonger. She is ‘a person who habitually reveals personal or sensational facts about others (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).
It’s stated, “It was at this precise moment that Amoti walked into the house with a Jerry can of drinking water she had got from the water pump at Virika Hospital. It was less than a kilometre from their weather-beaten home at Kachwamba area in the outskirts of Fort Portal. Of course, she had spent more than one hour gossiping against the wife of the rich shopkeeper whom she intensively hated and was jealous of. They had laughed and laughed with Abwoli, whom was her best friend.
The author illustrates Amoti as a person who has issues with other people. She is jealous of other people on different aspects.
The novel recounts two occasions when Amoti exhibits jealousy. In the first instance, she had spent an hour with her best friend, Abwoli gossiping regarding the wife of a rich shopkeeper. If she hadn’t spent an hour in the useless talk - an hour gossiping against the wife of a rich shopkeeper - her son wouldn’t be lying on the floor in shock at what his father had done against him.
In another instance, she is jealous of Vicky after she learns that Vicky’s man was a rich person since he owns a motor garage.
When Amoti asks Vicky what her man does, Vicky replies he owns a motor garage in Kamwenge. Amoti becomes jealous of Vicky. She is jealous as her husband is not as rich as Vicky’s boyfriend. She considers Vicky lucky. She is jealous of that fact.
© 2019 Benny Alianess