The Lieutenant

by

Kate Grenville

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The Lieutenant: Part 2, Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Though Rooke lives at his observatory, he still joins the officers for Sunday dinner. One evening in winter, Rooke arrives to see Governor Gilbert sitting with Major Wyatt. The governor's presence is supposed to be an honor, 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 prisoners are all loose and immoral, while constantly bringing out a miniature painting of his sweetheart, Betsy. He doesn't realize that nobody cares to look at another man's love. Silk tells Rooke often that they'll surely see Timpson at the one brothel in the settlement before too long.
The way the officers think about the governor's presence again complicates the relationship between stories and truth: though they're told his presence is an honor, the truth is that his presence detracts from speaking their minds, or their own personal truths. In this case, the narrative actively obscures a number of truths.
Themes
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Storytelling and Truth Theme Icon
Rooke is happy to admire Betsy's portrait if it means he can sit far away from Governor Gilbert. 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 the new colony would be able to produce its own food, but this has proven false. Between the sandy soil and the prevalence of theft, vegetables never grow to a decent size. Occasionally the governor's shooter brings back meat, and Surgeon Weymark paints the heads of those animals. Regardless, it's obvious to everyone that food is scarce, and the promised supply ships are late.
Though theft is mentioned in this passage as simply a matter of fact, it adds a somewhat ominous tone and suggests that the community the English are trying to create is shaky at best. Further, the promised supply ships now seem like lies, which in turn begins to erode the colony's trust in its homeland. All together, the food scarcity creates a situation in which the undeniable truth is that bad things will happen.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Storytelling and Truth Theme Icon
Timpson whines that he's homesick and hungry during the meal. When everyone is finished, Governor Gilbert rises and announces that he's putting together a party to find someplace where gardens will grow, and adds that he hopes the party will find natives more willing to speak 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 all the unpleasant things they'll surely encounter on their expedition, but says that he really needs to meet the natives in order to properly write his book.
Simply by nature, deciding to settle a second settlement for farming shows again that the English feel entitled to the land and the people of New South Wales, a product of England's imperialist goals of this time period. Silk's motives for volunteering are entirely self-serving; he wants to have exciting experiences to include in his narrative. He remains detached from reality, seeing everything and everyone through a lens of their dramatic potential, even as he uses “true” events to form his stories.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Storytelling and Truth Theme Icon