The Lieutenant

by

Kate Grenville

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The Lieutenant: Part 2, Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The bay is soon named Sydney Cove, and Rooke often looks around in wonder at the strange landscape. Rooke is fascinated by the plate-like rocks, and thinks they look like flaky pastry. He wonders how he'd describe them to Anne in a letter. Within two weeks, the prisoners clear the land and erect sagging tents.
As Rooke considers how to describe the rocks, he flirts with Silk's method of transcribing truth. Similes like this one are scientifically accurate, but they can convey a different kind of emotional or aesthetic truth that objective language does not.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Storytelling and Truth Theme Icon
After the land is cleared, the soldiers herd the prisoners into the clearing so that Commodore Gilbert can address everyone. Seeing all the prisoners, Rooke thinks that the balance of power is 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 Wyatt gives the signal, the marines fire their guns to salute and stand upright. Rooke thinks he'd be happy if it was the last time he ever has to fire his gun.
Though Rooke is certainly right about the balance of power if one is looking only at simple math, he ignores the fact that guns are powerful enough to tip the balance in favor of the soldiers. Even if the soldiers aren't actively being violent to the prisoners, the guns convey to the prisoners that the soldiers are in charge. At the same time, this is a reminder of the constant threat of a prisoner mutiny.
Themes
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Gilbert reads his commission from King George that makes him monarch by proxy: he's now Governor Gilbert. He then reads that the natives are "to be treated with amity and kindness," and says that the settlers must learn the native language in order to ensure the wellbeing of the colony. Gilbert finishes his address and calls the reverend to speak. A female prisoner guffaws and the rest of the prisoners begin shouting and whistling. Captain Lennox, a thin man, steps into the crowd and pokes the butt of his musket into a few people. The crowd immediately quiets. Seeing this, Rooke begins to plan how to he'll avoid ever having to police the prisoners.
The king's commission already raises questions about how the settlers are dealing with the natives: shooting through one of their shields wasn't kind by any means. This suggests that regardless of what the words say, the truth behind them is something entirely different—partly because the commission never defines what "amity and kindness" truly mean in this situation. By leaving out this important information, Gilbert and the soldiers can decide what those words actually mean.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Storytelling and Truth Theme Icon
The reverend begins his sermon, and Rooke thinks that the reverend's words are possibly intended to provoke the prisoners, who had no choice in coming to the colony. Governor Gilbert cuts the reverend off in the middle of a breath, and the prisoners soon return to their work. Rooke puts his head down and begins to walk briskly towards a high cliff where he thinks he might build his observatory. He hears Major Wyatt roaring at a prisoner, and turns to see Wyatt prodding a prisoner to work faster. Other prisoners appear to be working, but Rooke sees they're making no progress. He wonders whether they're stupid or just indifferent.
Though the prisoners and soldiers are supposed to feel a sense of community through their shared relationship with God, Rooke recognizes that the reverend has the power to use this relationship to dissolve the community. This shows that language can work both ways, to build community or destroy it. The reverend's words also recall Rooke's childhood experiences of feeling horribly alone, as it alienates the prisoners.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Storytelling and Truth Theme Icon
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Rooke comes across Silk sitting on a rock and writing. Silk invites Rooke to sit with him and regales him with a story of an encounter with the natives. The natives apparently didn't know what sex the settlers were, and when a soldier pulled his pants down, the natives were astonished. Rooke praises Silk's retelling of the story, but secretly hopes that Silk doesn't include him in the book. Silk earnestly asks Rooke to help him with the book by telling him his own stories about what he sees in New South Wales. This surprises Rooke, and he realizes that Silk sees his time in New South Wales as an opportunity to become a writer.
The relationship between Rooke and Silk continues to erode as Rooke questions the truthfulness of Silk's narrative. Again, this shows that Rooke values the truth (which he sees as objective and achievable) above all else. However, this idea becomes complicated with Silk's request for Rooke's stories, as this is essentially an invitation for Rooke to shape the truth or look for other kinds of truth than strict facts. Rooke’s surprise indicates that he sees Silk's storytelling and his own inclination towards scientific truth as entirely different things.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Storytelling and Truth Theme Icon