My Shadow Ran Fast Critical Context - Essay

Wilber Power Sewell

Critical Context

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Sands’s autobiography is interpretive, as he selects events leading to his rebellious youth, crime, imprisonment, and rehabilitation rather than depicting all aspects of his life. Consequently, My Shadow Ran Fast appeals naturally to alienated young readers who are abused, rebellious, or unloved. Other readers may be drawn to the book because it allows a vicarious experience into violence, prison confinement, adventure, and rehabilitation; they see the results of belligerence in the life of one indi-vidual. They can determine how people’s attitudes lead to behaviors. While gaining insight into negative aspects of life, young readers can also receive hope and affirmation for changing one’s life positively and can realize that a person faces consequences for actions.

The treatment of prison life can foster the study of additional works to determine reforms in prisons. Interest in Duffy’s life and reforms can lead to reading books about this warden who cared and wanted prisoners to be rehabilitated. Although this book was published in the 1960’s, its topics and messages are timeless: child abuse, lack of communication or love in families, violence, and rebellion. Some of the entertainers mentioned are renowned; references to Chadwick, the first woman to swim the English Channel, and Chessman, whose case received much attention, provide research topics. The descriptions of prison life remain relevant, as do Sands’s messages for living and his seven steps for freedom. Young adult readers may also be drawn to Sands’s later autobiographical work, The Seventh Step (1967).