Left to Tell

Left to Tell Summary and Analysis of Part 2: Chapters 9-12


Pastor Murinzi leads Immaculée and the other women down the hallway to his bedroom and then into a four-foot-by-three-foot bathroom. He tells them they must be completely silent so as not to risk discovery, and they spend a terrified night cramped together. The next morning the house is searched but Pastor Murinzi gets the Hutu searchers to leave.

The next day there are hundreds of people around the house screaming for the death of Tutsis. They enter the house to search as well. They are the neighbors that Immaculée has grown up with her entire life. The devil “whispers” (78) in Immaculée’s ear for the first time here; he says that she can’t survive.

For the first time Immaculée turns to God to help her survive and push past these thoughts. When the pastor returns Immaculée begs and convinces him to move his wardrobe in front of the door to their bathroom so that when the searchers come back they will not discover the women’s hiding place.

As the days go on and the women become accustomed to their cramped communal space, the terror returns when the pastor tells them that men will soon be back to search the house for them. Immaculée’s fear overwhelms her and she spends all waking hours praying. It is her only way to not go insane and allow what she feels is the voice of Satan to penetrate her thoughts.

From the pastor, Immaculée learns that the killing of the Tutsis appears to have no end in sight and most Hutus want to cleanse the entire country of them. Immaculée is full of blind rage. The killers come back to search the house a second time. As Immaculée hears them on the other side of the dresser, she realizes that she is praying to God “with a heart full of hatred” (93).

She soon comes to the realization that the killers are like children in the eyes of God and that she must forgive them, not hate them. “I knew that I couldn’t ask God to love me if I were unwilling to love his children,” (94) she realizes. One Immaculée has had this realization she is able to retreat into her mind every day in the bathroom, meditating on the wisdom of God and focusing her prayers with her rosary. Praying is the only thing that keeps her spirit alive: “When I wasn’t praying, I felt that I was no longer living in His light, and the world of the bathroom was too bleak to endure” (95).

When Pastor Murinzi’s welcoming attitude begins to sour and he tells Immaculée that her father was hiding weapons and plotting to murder Tutsis, she snaps back at him and exposes his lies. She realizes that the pastor’s open rudeness toward her and her father means that he thinks she will not survive the holocaust, as Rwandans are private people who would never say something like that to someone who would one day be their equal again.

Bad news continues to pile into Immaculée’s life. She hears her friend Janet publically denouncing her in the pastor’s yard. The new president congratulates the killers for their good work. A radio announcement says there has been a massacre at Immaculée’s university. Pastor Murinzi turns away an old Tutsi woman, Sony, and the women in the bathroom hear her trying to escape the approaching killers, which Immaculée know she cannot do.


“When morning broke, the birds in the pastor's shade tree began singing. I was jealous of them, thinking, How lucky you are to have been born birds and have freedom - after all, look at what we humans are doing to ourselves” (Immaculée, 75).

Immaculée thinks this after her first night hiding in the pastor's bathroom. She has no idea how long her ordeal will last and at this point only thinks about it being a day or two. Nevertheless the hot cramped dark quarters are stifling to her. In this quote she expresses her frustration with being a human, part of a race that can create the destruction of lives she is witnessing all around her. Most people would say that humans are lucky to be humans because of all the higher-level thoughts and ideas humans have compared to other animals, but Immaculée is experiencing the absolute worst that humanity can conjure. For her, human nature has caged her and it is the birds who are free.

"Even a few minutes not spent in prayer or contemplation of God became an invitation for Satan to stab me with his double-edged knife of doubt and self-pity. Prayer became my armor, and I wrapped it tightly around my heart" (Immaculée, 85).

The metaphor of prayer being Immaculée's armor and safety net against despair and letting the Devil into her heart first appears here. Immaculée is filled with mental anguish that she feels is sent by Satan to tempt her against God and humanity. She realizes here that the only way to not become full of hatred and anger is to use God's love to help her through her ordeal, and thus learn to forgive everyone who is doing horrible things to her family and her country.

"It was no use - my prayers felt hollow. A war had started in my soul, and I could no longer pray to a God of love with a heart full of hatred.

I tried again, praying for Him to forgive the killers, but deep down I couldn't believe that they deserved it at all. It tormented me... I tried to pray for them myself, but I felt like I was praying forth the devil” (Immaculée, 93).

Immaculée struggles with forgiving the killers here. She hates them and wishes them all to be dead, and only wants to pray for their victims. But she realizes that she is being hypocritical and asking for God to help and save her and her family when she is full of hatred for many of his human creations. These doubts let Satan creep into her mind, which she describes as a "dark voice." This dilemma is the central one that Immaculée must overcome in her time in captivity.

"I held on to my father's rosary and asked God to help me, and again I heard his voice: Forgive them; they know not what they do.

I took a crucial step toward forgiving the killers that day. My anger was draining from me - I'd opened my heart to God, and He'd touched it with His infinite love. For the first time, I pitied the killers. I asked God to forgive their sins and turn their souls toward His beautiful light.

That night I prayed with a clear conscience and a clean heart. For the first time since I entered the bathroom, I slept in peace" (Immaculée, 94).

Immaculée realizes that the killers are not evil. They have done evil deeds but they do not understand them, making them children. After hearing God speak to her, saying at all humans are his children, she realizes that she cannot hold anger at the killers in her heart because they are unaware of the terribleness of their actions. This realization sparks the revelation she has in this quote, and changes her life. Forgiveness is the most important theme of the memoir and this quote highlights when it first becomes a part of Immaculée's life.