Left to Tell

by

Immaculée Ilibagiza

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Left to Tell: Chapter 23 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
At the UN, Immaculée is continually reminded of her trauma and sorrow. One day, a Senegalese officer named Colonel Gueye tells her he can escort her to Kibuye so she can visit her surviving relatives. Two weeks later, Immaculée and Sarah are taken by helicopter back to her home province. In the helicopter, Immaculée remembers all the times she’d wished she was a bird, flying free above it all. Now she gazes at the country below and is filled with sadness.
This passage explores the problem of survivor’s guilt. Immaculée has achieved the freedom she craved in a far more literal way than she could have imagined, as she is actually flying like a bird! However, she could not have anticipated the level of sadness that comes with being one of the few who survives death and gets to once again to taste freedom.
Themes
Forgiveness and Redemption Theme Icon
Aimable does not have enough money to visit Rwanda, but Immaculée assures him that he will honor their parents by completing his studies despite everything that has happened. Colonel Gueye leaves Immaculée and Sarah under the protection of a kind man named Captain Traore. The captain tells Immaculée that he fears for her safety; although the genocide may be over, the area is still afflicted with tension. As a result, he sends over twenty soldiers and five armored vehicles to escort Immaculée back to Mataba. Immaculée feels proud to be traveling with so much support, but overwhelmed with sorrow on returning home.
The more time passes after the end of the genocide, the more kindness and support Immaculée encounters. This helps her to get through the harrowing period of processing her own grief and trauma. It also provides hope for the future of Rwanda. While there may still be tensions in Kibuye, the presence of so many kind people suggests that love may indeed conquer hate in the long run.
Themes
Love vs. Prejudice Theme Icon
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Immaculée’s family home has been completely destroyed. Her few surviving Tutsi neighbors show her where Rose and Damascene were hastily buried. Hearing the details of how her family members died fills Immaculée with anger. She feels an urge to destroy the whole of Mataba and curses the killers, calling them “animals.” That night, Immaculée feels totally alone. Her angry, vengeful thoughts distance her from God, whom she calls her “truest friend.” 
Immaculée knows that the only way she will be able to achieve peace and happiness is through forgiveness, but sometimes it is simply too difficult for her to enact her principles. She needs time to let out her feelings, even if this time is spent miserable and alone.
Themes
God, Faith, and Miracles Theme Icon
Love vs. Prejudice Theme Icon
Forgiveness and Redemption Theme Icon
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Eventually, Immaculée manages to pray to God to forgive the killers. She asks to help and forgive them. At this moment, she feels at peace, even as she remains desperately sad. It is a huge relief to be free from hatred and vengefulness. Immaculée is hopeful about the international tribunal being established by the UN, but also wants to ensure that there is room for forgiveness. When she stops praying, she hears music. The soldiers at the camp are having a party, and she and Sarah watch happily as they dance all night.
It might seem crazy that Immaculée and Sarah are able to participate in a party after confronting the ultimate devastation and trauma that comes through returning to Mataba. However, the sense of joy and peace Immaculée has achieved through forgiveness allows her to let go of her own grief and be happy with others.
Themes
God, Faith, and Miracles Theme Icon
Love vs. Prejudice Theme Icon
Forgiveness and Redemption Theme Icon
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
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The next day Immaculée visits Jeanne and Esperance, who are doing far better than when she last saw them. A group of Tutsi survivors and Hutu friends assemble for Rose and Damascene’s reburial. When they dig up Damascene’s body, Esperance tells Immaculée not to look, but she looks anyway, and ends up fainting. After this, she realizes it would be better if she did not see her mother’s remains. Many of the survivors admit that not only have they lost their family, community, and possessions, but they have also lost their faith. Immaculée feels grateful that, despite everything she’s lost, she still has her religion. She tells Sarah it is time for them to return “home” to Kigali.
Immaculée’s eventual realization that it is better not to look at the dead bodies of her relatives carries significance beyond this particular moment. Throughout the book, Immaculée pushes herself to extreme lengths, putting her own courage and mental stability to the test. Here, she remembers the importance of acknowledging her limits and protecting herself from further trauma where possible.
Themes
God, Faith, and Miracles Theme Icon
Love vs. Prejudice Theme Icon
Forgiveness and Redemption Theme Icon
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon