Left to Tell

by

Immaculée Ilibagiza

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Left to Tell: Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
One of Vianney’s high school teachers named Nzima knocks on Pastor Murinzi’s front door. His voice is full of desperation as he asks if he is going to be killed. He admits that he is having visions of his wife and children being murdered. Immaculée suggests that Nzima stay at the pastor’s house, but Nzima refuses, and Immaculée then realizes that Pastor Murinzi must have already said that he couldn’t stay. Nzima leaves, and Immaculée later learns that he was murdered only a few hundred yards from the pastor’s house.
Immaculée’s own position of powerlessness means that she is not able to help others as she would wish, making the whole situation even more painful. Instead of helping, Immaculée is simply forced to be a witness to the gruesome deaths of her friends, family members, and neighbors. 
Themes
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Hours later, Immaculée is sitting alone in a bedroom when Pastor Murinzi opens the door and leads five other Tutsi women into the room, telling them to stay there and be quiet. Immaculée barely knows the women, but they sit together in silence while terrifying cries of “Kill them all!” can be heard from outside the house. Some of the women dive under the bed, until Immaculée spots a crawl space where they can hide. They stay there for two hours, sweating and struggling to breathe. When Pastor Murinzi returns, he is shocked and confused until Immaculée pokes her head out of the hole and tells him the women are hiding there.
In many scenes in the book, Immaculée assumes a leadership role and helps others to escape death. In some ways, Immaculée is an unlikely leader; she is a humble, reflective person who does not have much of an ego. At the same time, her ability to stay calm and solve problems even under the most difficult of circumstances naturally positions her as a leader, particularly when those around her become hysterical or frozen with fear.
Themes
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Pastor Murinzi explains that the killers are going into every house. He promises not to turn the women away, but explains that he’s going to have to pretend that he has done so. No one in the house can know that they remain there, otherwise they will certainly be killed. He decides to hide them in a small room, starting early tomorrow morning. He then tells Immaculée that Augustine and Vianney must leave, because it is too dangerous for him to hide men. Immaculée tries to argue with him, but he won’t listen. She is grateful to the pastor for sheltering her, but worries that, as has happened during previous massacres, he may only be hiding Tutsi women in the hope of raping or marrying them once there are no Tutsi men around to defend them.
Immaculée’s relationship to Pastor Murinzi is particularly difficult. Because he is risking his life to shelter her, Immaculée cannot defy the pastor’s wishes—even if that means turning out her own brother and friend to be killed on the street. Again, Immaculée’s absolute powerlessness in this situation is heartbreaking. Not only is she living through horror, but she is absolutely powerless to do anything to intervene.  
Themes
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That night, Immaculée lies in agony thinking about Augustine and Vianney’s fate. One of the other Tutsi women, Therese, tries to comfort her by saying that, as “strong men,” they will be able to survive. Therese is a mother herself and promises Immaculée that the best thing to do is stay at the pastor’s house and let the boys go. In the early hours of the morning, Pastor Murinzi wakes Immaculée and brings her down to say goodbye to Vianney and Augustine. She must tell them that they can no longer stay at the pastor’s house, and tries to be strong and encouraging as Vianney desperately asks her where they will go. She squeezes Vianney and promises him they will meet again. The boys then walk out into the night.
Surviving the genocide at times requires deliberate self-deception. Both Therese and Immaculée know that Augustine and Vianney will likely not survive; in the context of the genocide, it is meaningless to say that they are “strong men.” Rather, just like Immaculée and all other Tutsis, they are perceived as walking targets by killers who will show no mercy.
Themes
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Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
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