Left to Tell

by

Immaculée Ilibagiza

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Left to Tell: Chapter 18 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Immaculée opens Damascene’s letter and immediately recalls the many letters he sent while they were in school. They were always filled with love, encouragement, joy, and “so much humor.” This letter is dated May 6, 1994. It is addressed to Leonard, Rose, Vianney, and Immaculée, but there are parentheses around everyone’s name but Immaculée’s. In the letter, Damascene says that he knows the family will meet again, and that he is ready for death. Immaculée later learns that midway through writing, Damascene found out that their parents and Vianney had been killed, and that this is why the paper is stained with teardrops. At the end of the letter, Damascene encourages Immaculée to stay strong and signs, “Your brother, who loves you very much!”.
The teardrops staining the page represent a physical part of Damascene. Although he is now dead and his soul has left his body, in a way he touches Immaculée through the physical object of the letter. In some ways the fact that Damascene learned about the deaths of his family members before his own death feels like a tragic injustice—would it not have been better for him to die with hope remaining that they were still alive? On the other hand, his letter indicates that knowing about their deaths helped him to accept and embrace his own.
Themes
Love vs. Prejudice Theme Icon
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Education, Discipline, and Growth Theme Icon
Bonn tried to hide Damascene, but when his family found out, they wanted Damascene dead. One of Bonn’s uncles was Buhoro, who Immaculée later learns was one of the most vicious Hutu extremists in Rwanda. Bonn helped Damascene to hide in a hole near Bonn’s house for three weeks, and then attempted to smuggle him to a kind Hutu fisherman who promised to take him across Lake Kivu to Zaire. Damascene ended up staying a night with Nsenge, another close friend. Ultimately, it was Nsenge’s brother Simoni who betrayed him. Simoni pretended to want to wash Damascene’s clothes and, when Damascene was in nothing but his underwear, he found himself surrounded by killers.
Again, good and evil are juxtaposed in disturbingly close proximity. The fact that more than one of Damascene’s friends risks everything to try and save him speaks to what an extraordinary, loving person he is. Yet on two occasions, the kindness of his friends is matched by the cruelty of their own family members. Once more, we see that the genocide unveils the good and evil that are both present within humanity.
Themes
Love vs. Prejudice Theme Icon
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
The killers dragged Damascene into the street and asked about his “pretty sister.” Damascene replied that they would never find Immaculée because she is smarter than all of them. As the killers kept taunting Damascene, he smiled at them, telling them it was his day to return to God and that he prays God will forgive them for what they are doing. At this point, one of the killers announced that he wanted to see the brain of someone with a master’s degree, and hacked at Damascene’s head with his machete. Meanwhile, other killers dismembered Damascene’s corpse.
Damascene is murdered in one of the most brutal and humiliating ways possible, but—just as Immaculée is able to disconnect from her physical surroundings—Damascene’s relationship with God means that he endures this death with dignity and even joy. Despite everything, Damascene embraces his imminent reunion with God, and thus remains triumphant even as he is killed.
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
Related Quotes
Immaculée later learns that one of the killers who’d been present at Damascene’s murder, a former friend of Damascene’s named Semahe, wept for days after. He admitted that he could not get the look on Damascene’s face out of his mind and felt that it was a grave sin to kill a young man like him. After that murder, he swore never to kill again. 
Again, this passage reemphasizes that Damascene is an extraordinary, unique person. The courage and joy he showed in his final moments were so overwhelming they persuaded Semahe to stop killing, a true moment of good triumphing over evil.
Themes
Love vs. Prejudice Theme Icon
Forgiveness and Redemption Theme Icon
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
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