The Lieutenant

by

Kate Grenville

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When Rooke is assigned to the ship Resolution during the American Revolutionary War, Silk occupies the hammock next to his. The two quickly become friends, though they're very different. Silk is confident, gregarious, and skilled at storytelling; he can make even the most mundane event interesting. His confidence means that he's poised to quickly move up the ranks in the marines, though he's only a few years older than Rooke. Rooke uses Silk as an example as he learns how to appropriately handle casual interactions. Both Rooke and Silk witness the horror of Private Truby's injuries during their first sea battle, which impresses upon them the seriousness of their involvement in the military. Silk later volunteers to go with the First Fleet to New South Wales and convinces Rooke to go as well. When they get to New South Wales, Rooke learns that Silk has been commissioned to write a book of his adventures in the colony. This makes Rooke realize that Silk isn't necessarily a military man; the military just allows him to have the experiences that will help his career as a writer. However, Rooke soon finds that Silk's love of storytelling isn't as benign as he once thought. As Silk crafts his narrative, his desire for exciting things to happen (native attacks, prisoner uprisings) begins to disturb Rooke. Rooke believes that Silk is more intent on crafting a compelling story than he is in telling the truth. When Silk discovers Rooke's notebooks of the Cadigal language, Silk reads a sexual relationship into Rooke's words, making Rooke understand that keeping secrets isn't an effective way of preserving the truth. Governor Gilbert later chooses Silk to lead the punitive expedition. Silk agrees to carry the hatchet and the bags to bring back the heads of six natives, but assures Rooke that nobody will be harmed on the expedition. He insists it's merely theater.

Talbot Silk Quotes in The Lieutenant

The The Lieutenant quotes below are all either spoken by Talbot Silk or refer to Talbot Silk. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Grove edition of The Lieutenant published in 2008.
Part 1, Chapter 3 Quotes

Of course their hair would grow back and they would continue to walk about, and breathe and eat: they were not dead. But they might as well be. They would never again have a place in the world.

Related Characters: Lieutenant Daniel Rooke, Talbot Silk
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

The firing, the reloading, the ramming, the priming, the firing again: all that was familiar from having been practiced so often. The theory of it was tidy: men firing and then calmly dropping to one knee to reload. What was happening on Resolution bore no resemblance to that.

Related Symbols: Guns
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2, Chapter 1 Quotes

It was foreign to Rooke, the idea of taking the real world as nothing more than raw material. His gift lay in measuring, calculating, deducing. Silk's was to cut and embellish until a pebble was transformed into a gem.

Related Characters: Lieutenant Daniel Rooke, Talbot Silk
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 3, Chapter 1 Quotes

Silk's impulse was to make the strange familiar, to transform it into well-shaped smooth phrases.

His own was to enter that strangeness and lose himself in it.

Related Characters: Lieutenant Daniel Rooke, Talbot Silk
Page Number: 139
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 3, Chapter 7 Quotes

He must tell, otherwise what up till now had been simply private would take on the dangerous power of a secret. The task was to tell, but to minimize.

Page Number: 201
Explanation and Analysis:

He had written as in despair in order to indicate that her despair was feigned. To him it had obviously been a joke. What native, even a child, would believe that washing would make them white? He had failed to record the joke on the page, in the same way he failed to note that they were breathing, or that their hearts were beating.

Page Number: 207
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 4, Chapter 4 Quotes

It was the simplest thing in the world. If an action was wrong, it did not matter whether it succeeded or not, or how many clever steps you took to make sure it failed. If you were part of such an act, you were part of its wrong. You did not have to take up the hatchet or even to walk along with the expedition.

Related Symbols: Guns
Page Number: 280
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Lieutenant PDF

Talbot Silk Character Timeline in The Lieutenant

The timeline below shows where the character Talbot Silk appears in The Lieutenant. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 2
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
...he can reinvent himself. He's assigned a hammock next to a small man named Talbot Silk. Their first interaction is somewhat awkward, but Silk declares that they'll be friends. (full context)
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Everyone likes Silk, especially since he's a gifted storyteller. His charm has already helped him move up the... (full context)
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...to make use of his sextant and help navigate. When the ship stops in Antigua, Silk organizes a group outing to a brothel, and Rooke is happy to go. As Silk... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 3
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Late in 1781, Rooke prepares for his first battle against a French ship. He and Silk take their places, and Rooke reasons that combat is just a matter of distance and... (full context)
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...the battle on the Resolution, the war ends, the English having lost. When Rooke meets Silk not long after, he realizes that the war changed Silk, who seems defeated and bitter.... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 4
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Rooke receives a letter from Silk at the same time he receives Dr. Vickery's letter. Silk encourages Rooke to volunteer for... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 1
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Silk is on board the Charlotte at the rear of the fleet, and he and Rooke... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 2
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...off: there are about 800 prisoners and only 200 soldiers. Rooke looks around and sees Silk, Major Wyatt, and Captain Gosden, the captain of the Charlotte, who looks unhealthy. When Major... (full context)
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Rooke comes across Silk sitting on a rock and writing. Silk invites Rooke to sit with him and regales... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 3
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...to get their attention. He watches them spear fish in the pool and thinks that Silk or Gardiner wouldn't allow the native men to ignore them. Rooke continues to rehearse what... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 4
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...but the soldiers must speak carefully when he joins them for dinner. Rooke sits between Silk and the young Lieutenant Timpson, a tedious man who goes on about how the female... (full context)
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...When the serving boys put plates down with a tiny amount of food on them, Silk cracks a joke about the miniscule ration. Everyone laughs. Someone in England had thought that... (full context)
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...with them. When the governor asks for volunteers, Rooke is the first to jump up. Silk stands next and later teases Rooke for being so quick. Silk goes on to list... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 5
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Rooke sits in the boat and watches Governor Gilbert sitting in the front. Silk and another lieutenant, Willstead, sit behind the governor. Willstead is obviously and obnoxiously ambitious, and... (full context)
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...the march and calculates that they marched four and five eighths miles. When he tells Silk, Silk is delighted. Silk tries to get Willstead to share in his delight, but Willstead... (full context)
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...back to Gardiner and the boat. Gilbert praises Rooke as a "first-rate navigator." Gilbert tells Silk that the area they found was exactly what he's looking for, and it will become... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 7
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...about the captured natives. They're not difficult to find: they're walking with the governor and Silk, wearing shackles. One man is about 30, and seems intrigued to find himself in the... (full context)
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...that he might see Boinbar and Warungin again. Before he has a chance to go, Silk shows up at the observatory. The two men sit with brandy and Silk explains that... (full context)
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Silk continues to talk about how Boinbar and Warungin adjusted to their captivity, and shares more... (full context)
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Rooke is uncomfortable with Silk's questioning, and thinks that Silk just wants an interesting tidbit to add to his book.... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 8
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Rooke considers asking Silk for advice, but finds he doesn't trust him now that he knows how intent Silk... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 1
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...note asking Rooke to leave the observatory, but the boy recites a very different message: Silk asks Rooke to come down to the settlement, as the natives have come. Rooke follows... (full context)
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Silk tells Rooke that the natives have been trickling in, and he pulls Rooke along to... (full context)
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Willstead comes up next to Rooke and Silk and comments that the "savages" are dirty. The men seem to understand Willstead's tone, and... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 3
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...Tagaran says something slowly, and Rooke recognizes both the word for "mouth" and one of Silk's words, which means "good," and believes that Tagaran praised him. As the sun begins to... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 4
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A week later, the Cadigal haven't yet visited Rooke again. Silk arrives, looking upset, and explains that Lennox has been complaining to Governor Gilbert that he... (full context)
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Silk turns the conversation to his narrative, and says that parts of it are truly "sparkling."... (full context)
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Silk asks Rooke if he has heard that Lieutenant Gardiner is being sent to Norfolk Island... (full context)
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...man, when in reality, he's at the mercy of Governor Gilbert and King George. As Silk leaves, Rooke realizes that he has decided to keep what happens at the observatory a... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 5
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...he could possibly write the full truth. He thinks that he'd have to be like Silk, but decides what he wrote will have to suffice. Rooke gets down his overcoat and... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 6
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Silk sends Rooke letters from Rose Hill describing how boring and quiet it is. Rooke finds... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 7
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Governor Gilbert calls Silk back from Rose Hill at the beginning of summer. When Silk complains to Rooke about... (full context)
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As Rooke tries to organize his thoughts to tell Silk, Silk finds Rooke's notebooks of the Cadigal language in a pile on the table. Silk... (full context)
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Silk finally opens Rooke's notebook and begins reading. He praises Rooke's work and sits back. Rooke... (full context)
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Silk seems to relax and then admits that he wanted to include more of the language... (full context)
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Rooke watches surprise cross Silk's face. Silk reads out loud what Rooke wrote about the joke he shared with Tagaran... (full context)
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Rooke is confused for a moment, and then understands Silk's meaning. He blushes and then yells "No!" Silk smiles, and Rooke knows that Silk believes... (full context)
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Rooke thinks that if he were a man of the world, he would've realized how Silk would read his notes. He thinks that Silk doesn't think that it's possible to share... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 9
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...As he does, Rooke thinks about how he used to think he was superior to Silk. He realizes that both he and Silk thought learning a language is about learning one-to-one... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 1
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Silk regales everyone with the story: the gamekeepers were near Botany Bay when they saw armed... (full context)
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...guns, and a few deaths would end this problem outright. Major Wyatt ignores this, and Silk assures everyone that Governor Gilbert is considering what should be done. Rooke sees Willstead roll... (full context)
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The next day, Rooke jumps up when he hears footsteps, hoping it's Tagaran. It's Silk, with a serious look on his face. Silk explains that they're being sent to Botany... (full context)
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Silk says that he told Gilbert that Rooke would certainly join the expedition, along with Willstead... (full context)
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Rooke tries to distract Silk by telling him that Cadigal grammar uses the dual plural and dual plural pronouns, like... (full context)
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Silk says warmly that the natives hide so well, they'll never find anyone. Rooke thinks that... (full context)
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...himself to stop and wonder what he's actually doing with his life. He thinks that Silk's logic that capturing a native is impossible is somewhat faulty, and realizes he's speaking out... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 3
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At the parade ground the next morning, Rooke and Willstead listen to Silk enthusiastically describe his plan to trap the natives on a promontory. Rooke thinks it's a... (full context)
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Finally, the party emerges at Botany Bay. Silk calls a halt and tells the men to rest for an hour before they attack... (full context)
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When the rest hour is up, the party marches to the neck of the promontory. Silk stops everyone and whispers the plan: the three lieutenants will each take ten men in... (full context)
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...canoe. More canoes are nearly to the far bank of the river. After a moment, Silk commands the men to fire at the natives. Rooke loads his musket slowly and clumsily,... (full context)
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Calmly, Silk praises the men. He says that they'll return to their resting spot and resume their... (full context)
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Willstead reminds Silk that they're supposed to capture male natives, but Silk snaps that they can only take... (full context)
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...happy to spend time with the soldiers. Warungin asks what the party is doing, and Silk asks where Carangaray is. Warungin frowns and begins speaking and miming in Cadigal. Silk asks... (full context)
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Rooke thinks that Silk will certainly give the governor a detailed account of what happened, and the governor will... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 4
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Silk, Willstead, Rooke, and Warungin sit together by the fire quietly while the 30 privates throw... (full context)
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Rooke asks Silk if Surgeon Weymark asked him to bring back trophies to paint, or if he's planning... (full context)
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Rooke asks for an explanation of the hatchet and bags. Silk explains that if capturing the natives proved impossible, the governor ordered him to kill six... (full context)
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...to his troubles. As Rooke thinks, he realizes that although he accused the governor and Silk of using faulty logic in coming up with this punitive expedition, he himself had used... (full context)
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...campsite, he rolls himself into his blanket like the others. He waits until he hears Silk's breathing even out and Willstead start snoring, and then gathers his pack. He starts walking... (full context)
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...that it was a failure, and remembers how Warungin sat relaxed by the fire while Silk smiled about the hatchet. Rooke says that the mission didn't go well, and the plan... (full context)