Left to Tell

by

Immaculée Ilibagiza

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Left to Tell: Chapter 22 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Kigali is so devastated that Immaculée finds it hard to believe she will find work. She asks Fari, who tells her the UN is likely the only option—but that she will need to speak English. Immaculée suddenly realizes that the vision she had in the bathroom is coming true. She washes her clothes, prays, and stays up all night practicing her English phrases in the mirror. The next morning, she travels to the UN and is greeted by a friendly Ghanaian guard. She believes he is speaking English but has no idea what he is saying. She responds: “How do you do? My name is Immaculée Ilibagiza. I am looking for a job.” The guard clearly has no idea what she is trying to say, but after learning she is Rwandan he switches to French. He points her to a waiting room, where she waits all day.
Immaculée’s first attempts to speak English and get a job at the UN are tragicomic. There is something distinctly sweet, endearing, and humorous about the determination with which she speaks English. Of course, it is totally unsurprising that she is incomprehensible, considering that she taught herself the language silently in a bathroom using only two books. At the same time, this scene is also a serious reminder of God’s power and the prescience of Immaculée’s vision.
Themes
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At the end of the day, Immaculée is told that there aren’t any jobs. Yet she remains determined, and returns to the waiting room every day for two weeks. At this point, she begins to lose hope. Aloise’s house is too noisy for proper prayer and contemplation, and Immaculée even finds herself missing the bathroom for the opportunities it afforded for deep, uninterrupted connection with God. Nonetheless, Immaculée prays to God to help her get a job at the UN, saying she knows that this is His plan for her. She begins to visualize herself getting the job, and to think about what she will need to do after she does.
Again, the lessons of the genocide apply in situations far different than the genocide itself. Just as Immaculée entrusted her survival to the miraculous power of God, so does she now trust that God will make a way for her to get a job at the UN, despite the apparent unlikeliness of this plan working out.
Themes
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Education, Discipline, and Growth Theme Icon
Immaculée realizes that she will need her high school diploma and documentation demonstrating her university attendance, all of which are in her dorm room in Butare. Yet Butare is four hours’ drive away and she has no idea how she will get there. At this moment, Immaculée hears her name being called. It is Dr. Abel, a professor of medicine from her old university. He remarks on how thin she is and invites her to come and live with him in Butare. Immaculée explains that she has a place to live but that she would love a lift to the city, and Dr. Abel replies that he is planning to leave tomorrow. Immaculée realizes that once again, God has answered her prayers and provided a solution to her problems.
Just as Christian doctrine teaches, God does appear in many forms in Immaculée’s life. Sometimes, it is the form of an idea or vision, at other times it is in the form of “blinding” or subduing the killers, and at other times it is in the form of a person who is perfectly positioned to help Immaculée. In each of these examples, Immaculée is reminded not only of God’s power, but also of His pervasive presence. She is never alone, because He is everywhere. 
Themes
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Education, Discipline, and Growth Theme Icon
When Dr. Abel drops her at the university, she is told that the campus is “off limits indefinitely” and that she should go back to Kigali. Immaculée stands at the roadside and prays, holding Leonard’s rosary. Soon after, a colonel approaches her and takes pity on her, mistaking her for a child due to her extremely low weight. He agrees to accompany her to her dorm room. The campus is unrecognizable and is still strewn with bodies. Immaculée does not look closely in case they are any of her beloved friends. Everything in Immaculée’s dorm room has been stolen except some pictures of her parents, which she gratefully takes from the wall.
The National University, which was once a paradise on Earth to Immaculée, has now been left apocalyptic and hellish. This confirms that nothing about Immaculée’s life will ever go back to the way it once was. Even if she is able to rebuild her life in the way she hopes and trusts she can, the loss of her former world is irrevocable.
Themes
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The colonel grabs some of Immaculée’s letters and suspiciously demands: “Who’s Aimable?”. Immaculée explains that he is her brother, studying in Senegal. At that moment, she spots an envelope on the floor containing her high school diploma, university progress report, and $30 of her scholarship money. Immaculée is thrilled—not only is she now “rich,” but she has documents to prove her education. She uses $1 to pay for a taxi back to Kigali, and then purchases clothes, shoes, perfume, and deodorant. She also gets her hair done for the first time in months.
Immaculée is rewarded for enduring the trial of returning to the university. The documents and money she retrieves not only help in a practical way to prepare her for life after the genocide—they also confirm that the life she had before was real. This is particularly important given the surreal, disorientating, and traumatizing way in which Immaculée’s world has been turned upside down.
Themes
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The next day Immaculée returns to the UN, where the guard does not even recognize her. She introduces herself to the personnel director and explains that she is looking for a job. He asks if she is trying to say she needs a job, before switching to French. The personnel director directs Immaculée to his secretary, who is suspicious of her and tells her that they won’t have any openings for the next three or four months. Immaculée walks away crying, but as she is leaving a middle-aged man stops her. He hands her his business card and tells her to come back at 10am the following morning. His card identifies him as Pierre Mehu, a spokesman for UNAMIR. UNAMIR had been established prior to the genocide in order to improve the Rwandan government. 
Again, just as Immaculée is brought to the brink of all-consuming despair, a miracle occurs and gives her hope again. Pierre Mehu is a stranger, and thus it is strange and inexplicable that he should show such sudden and unwarranted kindness to her. Of course, Immaculée believes that such things are miracles from God. An additional interpretation might be that Immaculée’s own goodness and kindness creates a kind of magnetism to which people naturally respond.
Themes
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The next day, Mr. Mehu reveals that he mistook Immaculée for a young woman he was close to who had been killed in the genocide. He takes a liking to Immaculée and promises to get her a job, adding that the UN will be her new “home” and he her father figure. Mr. Mehu’s secretary gives Immaculée intensive lessons in secretarial skills, and soon after Immaculée passes the UN typing test with a perfect score. She is soon given a job as a clerk, tracking the foreign supplies coming to Rwanda via the UN. Immaculée cannot believe that only a few months previously, she had been teetering on the brink of death in the bathroom.
Many people in this part of the book offer to serve as surrogate family members to Immaculée. This is an important part not only of Immaculée’s personal story, but also the story of Rwanda as a whole. With so many families and communities destroyed and people left orphaned by the genocide, it is necessary to expand the concept of family and create new kinship relations with people who may previously have been total strangers.
Themes
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Immaculée loves her job, meeting new people, and improving her English. She is also happy to receive a paycheck, which helps her to financially support her aunts and give back to Aloise. In early October, all her friends from the camp had left Aloise’s house. Over a million Tutsis who’d left Rwanda during the 1959 and 1973 massacres have returned to the country, shaping it into a different place. Meanwhile, over two million Hutus had left, many to refugee camps in other countries. Surrounded by ongoing turmoil and suffering, Immaculée decides that she needs to move on and find a new home. 
One of the skills that helps Immaculée to survive both during and after the genocide is her willingness to embrace change. Many people find change frightening, and would rather stay even in bad situations in order to avoid confronting the unknown. However, due to her confidence in herself and her faith in God, Immaculée does not shy away from change but rather rushes toward it.
Themes
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Soon after, Immaculée’s university roommate, Sarah, arrives at Aloise’s house, weeping with joy to find Immaculée alive. Immaculée sobs as she tells Sarah how Augustine and Vianney died together. Immaculée decides to move in with Sarah, who lives only five minutes away from Aloise. Immaculée is thrilled to live with Sarah’s parents, who are very devout Christians. Immaculée realizes that it is finally time for her to write to Aimable, a task she has delayed because of the unbearable sorrow it will bring them both. She puts Leonard’s rosary on the table beside her and begins to write “the saddest letter I have ever written.”
Immaculée constantly invokes the presence of her dead family members, who remain alive to her in various different ways and forms. Ironically, she has remained distant from her actual living family member. Indeed, there is an extent to which it is easier for her to communicate with her dead loved ones because she believes they are at peace. Communicating with Aimable inevitably means causing him to suffer, which is the last thing Immaculée wants. 
Themes
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Love vs. Prejudice Theme Icon
Forgiveness and Redemption Theme Icon
Education, Discipline, and Growth Theme Icon