Left to Tell

Left to Tell Essay Questions

  1. 1

    When does Immaculée first realize she needs to forgive the killers?

    She feels that her prayers to God are sullied by her hate. She is praying to God for her family to be safe and for her own protection from the killers but she is wishing for the death of the killers the whole time. She realizes that she is being a hypocrite and she should not pray to God with a heart full of hate.

  2. 2

    What major temptations toward hatred does Immaculée fight after making her decision to forgive the killers?

    The French general says he will kill anyone she wants for her. This tempts Immaculée to get revenge on those she knows have harmed her family. She is tempted again when she goes back to her village and sees the killers, or Hutus who stood by and watched, and she wishes she could burn the whole village.

  3. 3

    What is the main message of the book, besides Immaculée's discovery of God?

    Forgiveness is the main message. God, Immaculée says, is one path toward forgiveness, but one can reach it without God - He just happened to be her path toward it. Most important of all is to break the cycle of violence and hatred that she has seen in her country. Forgiveness is accessible to anyone who wants it, she emphasizes.

  4. 4

    Why does Immaculée think forgiveness is of the utmost importance for Rwandans?

    She thinks that there was already a good deal of simmering hatred between ethnic groups before the war but afterwards the country could be consumed by it. She sees Tutsi war orphans and realizes that if no one teaches them to forgive they will grow up with great hatred in their hearts. Forgiveness is important for the country's future because without it they will never escape the legacy of the genocide.

  5. 5

    Not all Hutus were killers. Their actions in the genocide spanned a spectrum. Describe the spectrum shown in the book.

    At the violent end are the killers, the Interhamwe. Then there are those who stand and watch, like the people who watched Damascene die. There is Immaculée's childhood friend Janet who turns away from her at Pastor Murinzi's house. Next there are people who act coldly and do not understand what she is going through, like her former boyfriend John. Pastor Murinzi is prejudiced but does a good deed by saving her and the other women. Finally there are Hutus who fight against the Interhamwe and oppose the genocide openly.

  6. 6

    What role do the ideas of narrative and memory play in the novel?

    Immaculée wants to raise awareness of what happened and make "never again" a reality once more. She also wants to share the stories of people who do not have a voice to share them. She is collecting a catalogue of her own and others' experiences to make sure the world does not forget.

  7. 7

    Immaculée does not intend for the book to be a history of the genocide, so what is the purpose of her writing her story?

    She wants to share the message of forgiveness. She shows people that despite her extreme hardships, harder than those most people have experience, she was able to find forgiveness - and the spreading of this message can help heal the world. She also wants to share the stories of people who have either died or will never get to share their own stories. She wants to make what happened a teaching moment for the world.

  8. 8

    What role does God play in the memoir? How does the role of God in Immaculée's life change over time?

    At first, Immaculée is more of a moral Catholic like her parents, always trying to follow the Golden Rule and help others. Later God takes on a much more personal role in her life when he becomes her focus and savior in the bathroom. God goes from an abstract being to emulate and follow to being the consuming focus of her life, one that helps her retain her sanity and discover the path toward forgiveness.

  9. 9

    How does Immaculée's attitude toward fear change through her memoir?

    At first, fear paralyzes her. When the Pastor's house is being searched for the first time Immaculée is frozen with fear, along with the other women. But as the story goes on she learns to conquer her fear. This is symbolizes best when she walks between the killers to get from the French camp to the Tutsi one after the genocide is over. She walks between killers but believes that God is protecting her and believes in herself to get there safely.

  10. 10

    How does Immaculée view freedom before and after the genocide?

    As a girl growing up Immaculée knew very little about the ethnic tensions that divided her country. Freedom meant being able to attend the best school she got in to, regardless of her Tutsi identity. Before the genocide that was how being a Tutsi had the potential to limit her. During the genocide, freedom was something she had none of, shut up in the bathroom. Freedom became something to dream of but not experience. After the genocide, freedom meant being able to pursue her dream of working for the UN and spreading her message of forgiveness. This was a freedom she was granted and able to achieve.