Tambu’s uncle. Babamukuru is the highly educated and successful
headmaster of the mission school. A patriarchal and authoritarian figure, he
uses his power and position to improve the lives of his extended family, but he
does it out of duty, not love. He is a remote, cold, and distant father and
takes no pains to hide his disappointment in and growing contempt for his
in-depth analysis of Babamukuru.
Nyasha’s brother, son of Babamukuru and Maiguru. Chido is tall,
athletic, and handsome, as well as charismatic, intelligent, and highly
educated. He has little interest in his family or in visiting either the
homestead or the mission. Educated mostly among white colonists, he grows
accustomed to a life of luxury and eventually takes a white
Tambu’s father and Babamukuru’s brother. Jeremiah is naïve, ignorant,
and superstitious. He seems barely concerned with the future and success of his
children and grows increasingly detached from his family. In Babamukuru’s
presence he is servile and fawning, lauding his siblings’ accomplishments. With
his immediate family, however, he is disdainful of education and does little to
encourage his children’s ambitions.
Ma’Shingayi’s sister. Lucia is a mysterious, strong-willed woman who
is feared by many and said to be a witch. Shrewd and sexually promiscuous, Lucia
is the object of gossip and rumor and is said to have had many affairs with rich
men. She is outspoken and pays no heed to the social code that requires woman to
be silent and obedient. She emerges as an independent and ambitious woman, eager
to educate herself and improve her lot in life.
Tambu’s aunt and Babamukuru’s wife. Maiguru is a strong, educated,
and successful professional woman and thus stands out from the rest of the women
in her family. Life in England has changed her, and she wants her children to
act more Western. She later fears they have become too Anglicized. Gentle,
conscientious, and caring, she accepts her passive role in her marriage and the
sacrifices she must make to keep Babamukuru happy. Though she rebels and leaves
him, she returns out of her sense of duty and her love for her
in-depth analysis of Maiguru.
Tambu’s mother. Initially, Ma’Shingayi is portrayed as a hardworking
figure who has toiled and sacrificed so that her son can have an education.
After Nhamo’s death, she grows spiteful, angry, and jealous of those around her.
Her hard life also makes her apathetic and accepting of the limitations with
which life has saddled her.
Tambu’s younger sister. Netsai is obedient and subservient, a
kindhearted and hardworking girl who helps Nhamo and the rest of the family, not
solely out of duty, but because she truly loves them.
Tambu’s brother. Nhamo takes advantage of his status as the eldest
son in the family. He is spiteful and mean and goes out of his way to taunt
Tambu and lord over her the fact that he is receiving an education. After he
leaves for the mission, he grows superior, lazy, and condescending, offering no
assistance to his family in their daily toils.
Tambu’s cousin, daughter of Babamukuru and Maiguru. Nyasha is
silently observant with an often unsettling intensity. Though she can be
precocious and charming, she does little to make the other girls at school like
her. At times she is easily provoked, volatile, and strong-willed, and she likes
to argue with and openly resist Babamukuru. She is a product of two worlds and
grows increasingly confused of her identity and the hybrid influences of life in
England and Rhodesia.
in-depth analysis of Nyasha.
A cousin of Babamukuru and Jeremiah. After Nhamo’s death, Takesure is
enlisted to help Jeremiah with the labors on the homestead. Like Jeremiah, he is
lazy, foolish, and superstitious and abuses his power as a man. He has many
wives, whom he cannot support. He impregnates Lucia and tries to make her his
The novel’s narrator and protagonist. An intelligent, hardworking,
and curious fourteen-year-old girl, Tambu is hungry for an education
and eager to escape life on the homestead. While she is sensitive and kind,
she is also often harsh and unyielding in her judgments. Tambu is
sympathetic to the powerful pull of tradition, but at the same time, she
wishes to break free of the limitations placed on her
in-depth analysis of Tambu.