The Lieutenant

by

Kate Grenville

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The Lieutenant: Part 2, Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Rooke makes sure to act the part of an astronomer on board the Sirius, the flagship of the fleet. Captain Barton is initially suspicious of Rooke's navigation skills, but when he finds that Rooke truly can navigate, turns out to be kind. The Captain’s right hand man, Lieutenant Gardiner, is also very kind to Rooke. The three spend their days squinting into their sextants at the sun. Unlike the men Rooke remembers on the Resolution, they're not competitive about their readings.
Rooke seems to finds a community with Captain Barton and Lieutenant Gardiner which is, notably, held together by a shared inclination towards astronomy and navigation. This shows again that sharing some kind of language is often how people form community and friendship, particularly since the text implies that Rooke wouldn't have been accepted at all had he not known how to navigate.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Silk is on board the Charlotte at the rear of the fleet, and he and Rooke only see each other when they stop in various ports. When they meet in Rio, Silk grumbles about not being on the same ship, but Rooke privately thinks that he enjoys the navy men on Sirius. Silk pulls out his notebook and reads a passage he wrote. Rooke praises the passage, but questions its truth. Silk says he's taking poetic license, which is a foreign concept to the scientifically-minded Rooke.
Finally, Rooke begins to discover that storytelling isn't always equivalent to telling the truth. This also means that the truth isn't always sparkling or particularly engaging (like Silk's passage is). With this divide, the friendship between Rooke and Silk begins to erode.
Themes
Storytelling and Truth Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Commodore James Gilbert is above Captain Barton in the chain of command. Gilbert is an angular and joyless man, though Rooke wonders if it's because he's always in pain. At dinner one night, Surgeon Weymark shares that Gilbert experiences constant pain in his kidneys or gallbladder, and none of his treatments work.
In the case of Gilbert, the human experience of physical pain causes him to disassociate from others, just as Rooke's childhood emotional pain caused him to isolate himself.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Every day at noon, Rooke, Captain Barton, and Gilbert make their way to the belly of the ship to the timekeeper, which is always set to Greenwich time. Gilbert winds the clock and then all three men tell the sentinel that the timekeeper has been wound. Rooke finds the ritual both humorous and wonderful: even though he's just a lowly officer, when they speak to the sentinel, Rooke is the commodore's equal.
With the clock winding ritual, Rooke finds a sense of community with Captain Barton and Gilbert. Again, this community is created because they share the language of telling the sentinel that the timekeeper is wound.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
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When the fleet reaches the shores of New South Wales, Commodore Gilbert decides that Botany Bay is an unsuitable place to settle. He directs the fleet north. Rooke and Gardiner stand at the rail and watch quiet bays go past, and see black men running with spears. Rooke doesn't understand what they're yelling, but he's fairly certain they're yelling at the ship to leave. When the first small boat is ready to leave for the shore, Rooke jumps at the opportunity to join the commodore, Captain Barton, and Surgeon Weymark.
Here Rooke begins to think about other ways that language works. The natives convey a perfectly clear idea even if the words aren't intelligible, which shows Rooke that intention, body language, and context are necessary aspects to understanding what someone is saying.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
On land, five native men step out from the forest. Rooke thinks they look very much like himself, but very strange nonetheless. They're naked and hold spears and shields. Gilbert reaches for a bag of trinkets and pulls out a string of beads. He calls excitedly to the natives, and Weymark pulls out a mirror. They call to the natives to approach, and tell Rooke to grab a trinket too. Rooke grabs a mirror and steps toward a man about his own age. The man steps forward quickly, grabs the mirror, and steps back again. He looks at the mirror with one of his companions and then drops it. The natives turn back to the sailors as though they're waiting for something.
The fact that Rooke thinks first that the native men look very much like himself shows again that his logical mind detaches him somewhat from the racist prejudices of his society—he sees things as they are, not as his culture tells him they should be, and this means recognizing the obvious humanity of the natives. The trinkets are intended to convey that the settlers come in peace, though the natives' reaction suggests that this isn't being effectively communicated.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
After a minute, Weymark approaches one of the older men. He takes the man's shield and sticks it into the sand, steps back, and fires his pistol through the shield. The natives jump back and as the smoke clears they see that the bullet split the shield in half. The native man gestures to his own body, and Weymark assures the man jovially that a bullet would do the same to his body. Rooke laughs along with the others, but the natives frown. Weymark begins to whistle, and the natives collect their shield and disappear into the trees.
Unlike the miscommunication with the trinkets, Weymark's shooting demonstration communicates clearly that the settlers are capable of extreme violence. This causes Rooke to understand that violence is its own brutal yet powerful language that is able to transcend barriers. Further, this display doesn't make the natives want to stay and chat—though violence communicates something, it doesn't lend itself to facilitating other types of communication.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon