Left to Tell

by

Immaculée Ilibagiza

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Left to Tell: Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Immaculée can hear the killers shouting her name, and realizes with horror that they know where she is. Even her prayers are stalled by fear and dread, as she can hear the killers inside Pastor Murinzi’s bedroom, right next to the bathroom door. One killer boasts that he has killed 399 “cockroaches” and wants to make it 400. Suddenly, Immaculée feels faint, and sees the bathroom as if from above. She can see Jesus above her in “a pool of golden light,” holding his arms out to her. Jesus tells her that faith can move mountains, but that faith does not come easily. He asks her to trust in him, assuring her that if she does, she will live.
This is the moment that Immaculée described at the beginning of the book, before she returned to describe her childhood and life story prior to the genocide. It is climactic in multiple ways—not only because it finally seems certain that Immaculée is going to be killed, but also because she achieves a moment of absolute peace, calm, and acceptance through her vision of Jesus.
Themes
God, Faith, and Miracles Theme Icon
Love vs. Prejudice Theme Icon
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Immaculée finds herself back in the bathroom, feeling newly calm and powerful. She shouts to the other women that they are safe, and the sound stuns them. However, Immaculée is right: the killers have left. Pastor Murinzi tells the women that the killers almost destroyed the house looking for the women, and then took their anger out on the houseboy, whom the pastor fired. Pastor Murinzi is so nervous about the women being discovered that he rarely brings them food, which makes Immaculée wonder if, after everything, they will starve to death. 
Immaculée’s calmness and confidence emerges from the fact that she has both accepted death and feels certain, after her vision of Jesus, that she is going to survive. The combination of these beliefs is enormously powerful, particularly in the midst of a genocide that inflicts panic, fear, and dread over the seeming certainty of death. 
Themes
God, Faith, and Miracles Theme Icon
Love vs. Prejudice Theme Icon
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
In early July, a different houseboy becomes insistent about cleaning the bathroom in which the women are hiding. Pastor Murinzi tells him he’s cleaned it himself, then says that he’s lost the key and doesn’t use it anymore. It is obvious that the houseboys know that this is where the women are hiding, and while the pastor is out talking to the French soldiers who have arrived in the area, a houseboy torments the women by trying to peer into the bathroom. However, then Pastor Murinzi returns with the good news that the French soldiers have agreed to accept the women and that he will bring them out of the house in the early hours of the following morning. Yet the pastor also heard that the killers are coming back to search his house either that night or the following morning. 
Throughout the book, hope is never straightforward: it is almost always accompanied by ominous signs as well. Just as it looks like the women finally have an escape route out of the bathroom (and the genocide), death also looks even more certain. The fact that they have miraculously lived up until this point but still have no guarantee of survival is torturous. As Immaculée has demonstrated, the only way to get through it is through faith, hope, and trust.
Themes
Love vs. Prejudice Theme Icon
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
The women braid each other’s hair in order to make themselves look as presentable as possible. When they catch sight of themselves in the mirror in Pastor Murinzi’s bedroom, they are horrified. Immaculée’s weight has gone from 115 to 65 pounds. Pastor Murinzi brings his ten children to look at the women, and some of the children exclaim that they are “Tutsi ghosts.” The pastor reminds his children that “there, but for the grace of God, go any of you.” Immaculée feels grateful to him and asks God to watch over him. One of the children, Shimwe, gives Immaculée a towel and a sweater, hugs her, and tells her she will pray for her. Immaculée is greatly comforted by this small act of kindness. She and the other women follow the pastor into the night.
While the pastor has not always behaved in a totally upstanding manner, in this moment he emerges as a deeply sympathetic and admirable figure. It is obvious that he shares Immaculée’s deep belief that everyone is a child of God. As a result, he has treated the Tutsi women as if they were his own children, and he reminds his children that they are no better than the women who have been forced to hide in the bathroom.
Themes
God, Faith, and Miracles Theme Icon
Love vs. Prejudice Theme Icon
Forgiveness and Redemption Theme Icon
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Education, Discipline, and Growth Theme Icon
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