Left to Tell

by

Immaculée Ilibagiza

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Left to Tell: Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After saying goodbye to Vianney and Augustine, Immaculée joins the other Tutsi women as they are led by Pastor Murinzi into a bathroom that is only four by three feet in size. Immaculée cannot understand how all six of them will fit inside there. Pastor Murinzi explains that they cannot flush the toilet or use the shower unless they hear someone in the bathroom next door doing so as well, and then it must be done at exactly the same time to mask the sound. The pastor guesses that the killings will go on for another week, and that hiding in the bathroom gives the women the best chance of survival.
The bathroom symbolizes the seeming impossibility of survival. Immaculée is not sure how the women will even fit in there, let alone how they will remain there for multiple days in a row, unable to move, make any sound, or wash. Yet the direness of the situation requires that they must be willing to try anything. The only other option is certain death.
Themes
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After Pastor Murinzi leaves, Immaculée silently prays for God to protect her family. She feels resentment toward the pastor for not protecting Vianney and Augustine, and prays to God to help her forgive him. She looks at the others in the bathroom: 14-year-old Athanasia and 12-year-old Beata, who is still wearing her school uniform. There is also 55-year-old Therese, her daughter Claire, and her other daughter Sanda, who is only seven. The group of them sit in silence. On occasion, they take turns silently standing up and stretching, but only for a couple of minutes before sitting down again. Immaculée hears the birds singing and envies their freedom.
Throughout the book, Immaculée refers to the “women” who are with her in the bathroom. However, this passage makes clear that most of them are in fact only girls. The fact that Beata is still wearing her school uniform highlights her youth and the ongoing theme of youthful promise interrupted by hatred and violence. Like Immaculée and the others in the bathroom, Beata’s future is looking increasingly impossible.
Themes
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Sitting in the bathroom is painfully uncomfortable, and Immaculée finds it impossible to sleep. The morning after they begin hiding there, they overhear Pastor Murinzi promising someone that he is “a good Hutu” and that he would never hide Tutsis. Immaculée reflects that if the killers found her and the other Tutsi women in the bathroom, they would kill Pastor Murinzi as well for being a “traitor.” Immaculée cradles Beata on her lap and manages to fall asleep. By the time she wakes up, it is 11pm, and Pastor Murinzi delivers some food—the first thing the women have eaten since arriving in the bathroom. He is saddened by how quickly they devour it and advises them to rest.
Pastor Murinzi is a complex character. Immaculée often portrays him in a less than sympathetic light, and many of his actions over the course of the narrative are cruel. This is difficult to reconcile with the fact that he sacrificed his life (as well as the lives of his family members) in order to save Immaculée and the other Tutsi women. This seeming contradiction is a reminder that all people are flawed and capable of committing good and evil—often simultaneously.
Themes
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By the next day, the women have invented a sign language with which to silently communicate with one another. Immaculée is desperately worried about her family, and thanks God that at least Aimable is safe due to being abroad. Later that day, they hear the killers again, shouting that they want to “wipe [Tutsis] from the face of the earth.” Immaculée peers out of the bathroom’s window through a small hole in the curtain. The killers are dressed in demonic costumes, and Immaculée sees dozens of people she knows, including many of Mataba’s “most prominent citizens.” 
Inside the bathroom, the tiny “community” of Tutsi women has become so close so quickly that they can communicate without speaking. This is a stark contrast to what is occurring outside. There, the community of Mataba (and indeed all of Rwanda) is falling apart, as neighbor turns on neighbor with horrifying speed.
Themes
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Immaculée closes her eyes and prays to God to save them. For the first time, she hears the voice of the devil inside her head. The devil mocks her for asking God for help and for thinking that she has any chance of survival. The devil calls her “nothing” and tells her she deserves to die. Yet Immaculée insistently prays to God, acknowledging her weakness but asking for forgiveness. As the devil mocks her for believing that she should be saved while so many have been gruesomely murdered, Immaculée reminds herself that God is love and that God would never abandon her. She prays as hard as she can, but the voice of the devil never fully goes away. 
Up until this point, Immaculée always described her faith as coming easily. She has always loved God and been ardently religious, and has never mentioned the presence of doubt in her mind. However, the extraordinary circumstance of the genocide derails even Immaculée’s normally rock-solid faith. Significantly, the devil mocks Immaculée for believing that she would be saved when so many others are perishing—a form of preemptive survivor’s guilt.
Themes
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Love vs. Prejudice Theme Icon
Forgiveness and Redemption Theme Icon
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When Pastor Murinzi returns that evening, Immaculée is in a “trance,” holding her rosary and barely cognizant of her surroundings. Therese and Beata are also deep in prayer. Pastor Murinzi laughs and tells them to calm down because the killers left seven hours ago. He brings the women more food, but this time they are all too drained and exhausted to eat. It is raining noisily, so the pastor is able to speak to the women. He describes the crazed behavior of the killers, who stabbed his furniture and suitcases in case there were any Tutsi babies in there. Their eyes were “glazed and red,” which made the pastor think they must have been on drugs. The killers promised to come back and search the house again.
A surprising parallel emerges here between the Tutsi women in the bathroom and the Hutu killers outside. Both are in a trance of some kind, cut off from the reality of what is happening around them. Of course, in Immaculée’s case, this trance is positive, as it emerges from her deep connection with God, whereas the killers achieve a trance state through drugs and alcohol. Both cases, however, show how difficult it is for humans to face the reality of such horror.
Themes
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The next day Pastor Murinzi tells the women that there are rumors he is hiding them and that a different group of killers will be returning to search the house more thoroughly. Immaculée wishes that God would let them be killed straight away rather than putting them through this ongoing agony. She prays, and in that moment, has a flash of inspiration. She asks the pastor to push his wardrobe in front of the bathroom door to hide it. He is uncertain, but after Immaculée begs him he agrees. Once the pastor leaves, the other women ask how Immaculée got such a good idea, and she replies that it was from God.
Whenever Immaculée feels close to giving up, she ends up being reinvigorated by prayer. Objectively her situation seems completely hopeless, a drawn out torture on top of the unimaginable horror of the genocide itself. Yet through her connection with God, she finds hope and inspiration in the midst of this absolutely bleak scenario, and this hope helps her to survive.
Themes
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Love vs. Prejudice Theme Icon
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon