Left to Tell

by

Immaculée Ilibagiza

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Left to Tell: Chapter 15 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In mid-June, Immaculée overhears Sembeba and his friends discussing a horrifying incident in which a mother was gang raped in front of her husband and three young children before the whole family was killed. After hearing more dreadful stories, she puts her hands over her ears and begs God to let her die and go to heaven now rather than live longer on Earth. However, eventually the boys begin talking about the war, saying that Kigali may soon be captured by the RPF. They also say that France is sending troops to Rwanda, which they think will help defeat the RPF because of France’s close ties to the Hutu government. However, Immaculée reasons that if the French do come, they will bring the attention of the world, and this will surely end the genocide. 
This is another moment in which Immaculée makes it appear as if God is listening and manipulates her state of mind in order to ensure that she doesn’t give up hope. Overhearing the conversation between Sembeba and his friends is a form of mental and emotional torture for Immaculée—however, just when she thinks she can no longer bear it, she realizes that the conversation also contains a small kernel of hope. Even in the darkest moments, hope can be found in unexpected places.
Themes
God, Faith, and Miracles Theme Icon
Love vs. Prejudice Theme Icon
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Later, Immaculée hears a radio report saying that the French plan to establish a camp at Lake Kivu, which is not far from Mataba. When the troops arrive, the Hutu government throws a big celebration, which Pastor Murinzi says proves that the French have arrived to help the slaughter of Tutsis. However, soon after the French announce that they want to establish “safe havens” for Tutsi survivors of the genocide and that any Tutsi who can reach a French camp will be protected there. Immaculée thanks God for this news. A few days later, she is overjoyed to hear a French helicopter circling in the sky above her.
The sound of the helicopter flying above recalls the birds that Immaculée envied earlier in the book. While Immaculée is trapped in a bathroom, forced into silent immobility, the birds and helicopters above not only fly freely, but also make noise. It might be strange to imagine being jealous of a helicopter, but the extremity of Immaculée’s situation means that it is not an unreasonable response.
Themes
God, Faith, and Miracles Theme Icon
Love vs. Prejudice Theme Icon
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Immaculée tells Pastor Murinzi that she thinks the women should try to reach a French camp, but the pastor responds that this is “a bad idea.” He doesn’t trust that the French are truly going to help Tutsis and warns that they will probably kill her on sight. Immaculée says she would rather be shot quickly by the French than give the Interahamwe killers “the satisfaction” of gruesomely murdering her. Pastor Murinzi is surprised, and eventually agrees to take the women—though warns them that it is so dangerous outside that he is not optimistic about their chances.
Pastor Murinzi’s concern for the women’s safety appears to be genuine. Yet his conversation with Immaculée shows that they have starkly different mindsets and attitudes toward the question of survival. Immaculée wants to survive, but she doesn’t fear death and would rather die trying to live on her own terms if the opportunity presents itself.
Themes
Love vs. Prejudice Theme Icon
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Immaculée explains that Pastor Murinzi worried the women had gone crazy, so in the middle of the night he brought them down to an empty bedroom to watch a movie. The women have been sitting down for so long that they have difficulty walking. Although they cannot turn the sound on, Immaculée loses herself in the story, beginning to confuse fiction and reality and worrying that the killers are inside the film. She must remind herself that it is not even set in Rwanda.  Unfortunately, one of Pastor Murinzi’s houseboys sees the flickering TV and informs a group of killers that the rumors are true, the pastor is hiding Tutsis in his house. When the pastor tells the women, he looks terrified, and prays that God takes their lives quickly if they must die.
At the end of this chapter, it seems as if the pastor’s act of kindness may end up costing the women their lives. The movie should be a happy event, a treat after months of living squashed in a stark bathroom with almost no distractions or ability to communicate. However, the fact that the houseboy sees the screen shows that even the most basic human acts are rendered impossible in the context of the genocide. Something as ordinary as watching a film can lead to death.
Themes
Love vs. Prejudice Theme Icon
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
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