The Lieutenant

by

Kate Grenville

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The Lieutenant: Part 3, Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
One day, a drummer boy comes running up to Rooke's observatory. Rooke believes that boy will have a 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 the boy down to the settlement and sees four native men walking with Silk behind them. Silk is trying out some words of their language, but the native men don't acknowledge him at all. Rooke thinks that Silk looks surreal next to the naked men.
Again, the fact that Silk won't take the hint that talking at the obviously uninterested natives is a poor way to communicate betrays his sense of superiority. Continuing to demand attention shows that he believes that he's entitled to speak with these people, regardless of their desires. This is also an example of unspoken language being ignored, as Silk ignores the natives' body language.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Silk tells Rooke that the natives have been trickling in, and he pulls Rooke along to follow the natives as they walk through the settlement. One older native man walks into a hut without knocking, and Silk and Rooke peer in. There's a woman inside holding a baby, and she looks terrified. The man inspects her belongings, and Rooke is aware that he's witnessing something special: never again will this man encounter a fork for the first time. Rooke thinks he's watching one universe encounter another.
By referring to both his own world and the natives' world as universes, Rooke places the two cultures on the same level in his mind. This shows that he's rediscovering his belief that all people are, first and foremost, people: though they're different, they don’t have any more or less value than he does.
Themes
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
The natives wander out of the hut and down the street. They turn away from Brugden and approach the barber's hut. The barber is in the middle of shaving a private, and he makes a show of it as the natives watch. When the barber is done, the private jumps up and invites the natives to feel his smooth cheeks, though they refuse. The barber gestures for one of the natives to sit down and have a shave, but after the one interested man tests the sharp blade, he decides against it.
These interactions are distinctly human; they're not interactions that can be thought about or recorded using traditional logic or a scientific method. The truth here, too, is that both parties (English and native) are exceptionally curious about the other. This begins to open up the settlement to engage in the kind of discourse the king supposedly commanded.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Willstead comes up next to Rooke and Silk and comments that the "savages" are dirty. The men seem to understand Willstead's tone, and they leave the settlement. Silk turns to Rooke and remarks that the natives' visit will be a new chapter in his narrative. Rooke nods, but doesn't understand how Silk can see what they saw and want only to turn it into a story. He realizes that Silk wants to make something that's strange seem familiar by writing about it, while Rooke wants to immerse himself in the strangeness.
Rooke's phrasing here suggests that he's come to believe that stories are inherently untruthful and are incapable of fully conveying the magic and wonder of reality. Scientific and/or rational thought, on the other hand, Rooke believes to be entirely truthful. This suggests the conflict between storytelling and truth as being one of transformation (storytelling) versus transcription (truth).
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Storytelling and Truth Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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