The Lieutenant

by

Kate Grenville

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The Lieutenant: Part 2, Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next morning, Rooke heads down to the settlement, filled with curiosity 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 settlement. The other man is older and looks unspeakably angry that he's here. Gilbert is smiling and asks the younger man, Boinbar, what the native word is for "hand." As Rooke watches, he becomes jealous and thinks that Silk is no linguist. He hopes that eventually, the governor will ask him to take over Silk's duties as the keeper of the native language.
For all of Rooke's discomfort from hearing about how the natives were captured, his curiosity here betrays that his sense of entitlement to meet the natives on his terms outweighs his (currently latent) belief that the natives are people worthy of respect. His jealousy that Silk has been given the role of linguist reinforces this, as it shows that Rooke believes that he alone can properly extract language from the shackled natives.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Gilbert asks the older man, Warungin, the native word for "thumb," but Warungin won't meet the governor's eyes. Rooke thinks that these men aren't as dark as the slaves he saw in Antigua, and they carry themselves proudly. He thinks that isolation has kept them from being swallowed by the imperial machine.
Again, though Rooke has these thoughts that acknowledge that the natives are proud people, the fact that he doesn't seem troubled that they're in shackles and angry about it shows that to a degree, Rooke has bought into the imperialist mindset.
Themes
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Rooke meets Boinbar's eyes, and thinks of how strange it must seem for him to be wearing clothes. Rooke feels excitement at learning about the unknown, and thinks he detects the same kind of excitement in Boinbar's eyes. Gilbert leads the natives back to his house. Rooke finds excuses to go down to the settlement over the next few weeks, but he never sees more of the native men. For the first time, Rooke regrets his isolation and thinks it's keeping him from sharing language with the natives.
The way that Rooke talks about learning the native language shows that he still thinks of language as simply something to acquire and know, not necessarily as a form of communication. This mindset comes from Rooke's solitary studies in Latin and Greek, and it shows that he isn't yet thinking about language as it pertains to anyone but himself.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Rooke begins to formulate an excuse to visit Gilbert's house so 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 sadly, Boinbar and Warungin escaped in the night. He says that Boinbar was fairly happy with the arrangement and that they've put together an extensive vocabulary. He pulls out his notebook and throws out several words, including the suffix “-gal,” which he thinks means either "tribe" or "place." Silk explains that Boinbar referred to himself as Cadigal, and then pointed across the water and said Cammeragal. Rooke only replies with, "I see."
Rooke's jealousy is secret, and this secret is one of the things that compromises his friendship with Silk. With this, the novel suggests that secrets can be the enemy of both storytelling and truth, as here, keeping the jealousy secret keeps Rooke from sharing something vulnerable and true with Silk—an act that would bolster their friendship. Once again, the way that Rooke and Silk speak about the natives like they're prisoners is indicative of their racist colonialist mindset.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Storytelling and Truth Theme Icon
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Silk continues to talk about how Boinbar and Warungin adjusted to their captivity, and shares more words of the native language. He stands and admits that his time with the natives will be valuable to his narrative, but says he needs to know the story of how they were captured. He says that Gardiner wouldn't share, and asks Rooke if Gardiner told him the story. Rooke jumps back and feigns adjusting the leg of his table before telling Silk that Gardiner only said the capture was a success. Silk presses, and Rooke continues to sidestep the question.
When Silk confirms Rooke's suspicions that he's primarily interested in crafting a compelling narrative, it shows Rooke that Silk is less interested in telling the whole truth. Further, the way Silk speaks about the natives as though they're merely interesting props in his story suggests that it's likely he wouldn't like Gardiner's account, which recognizes that the natives are human first and foremost.
Themes
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Storytelling and Truth Theme Icon
Rooke is uncomfortable with Silk's questioning, and thinks that Silk just wants an interesting tidbit to add to his book. Rooke knows that if Silk were to find out how Gardiner truly felt about capturing the native men, it would bring on catastrophe: Governor Gilbert would suspend Gardiner from duties, send him back to England, and Gardiner's life would be over. Rooke again insists he knows nothing about what happened, and remembers Gardiner saying that he wishes he hadn't obeyed. Rooke thinks he must forget those words.
Here, Rooke makes the connection that in order to remain part of the military, one must buy fully into the mindset that colonized peoples are less than human. This mindset is necessary for the military to carry out its goals of colonizing, as accepting that the native people are as human as the English would also mean accepting that they have rights to their own land and society.
Themes
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon