The Lieutenant

by

Kate Grenville

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The Lieutenant: Part 3, Chapter 2  Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next morning, Rooke emerges from his hut and sees two natives standing at the top of the hill. Rooke regrets how he greeted the natives before with friendly speech. He looks at them for a long moment and then sits down against his hut to wait. Rooke busies himself thinking about clouds for a while and realizes that the men have come closer. He surreptitiously looks in their direction and catches Warungin's eye. Warungin comes and sits down near Rooke. He puts a hand out and begins to say something. Rooke tries to mimic the sounds until he finally comes out with "bere-wal," and Warungin nods.
Even if Rooke doesn't conceptualize it as such, he's already learning the language when he accepts that talking at the uninterested natives isn't effective. This is an early indicator that learning a language is a transformative process and requires the student to rethink how exactly they communicate and interact with other people. In this way, Rooke has already surpassed Silk, which in turn shows that Rooke is far more open to change and development over the course of the novel than Silk is.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Warungin mimes using a telescope, gestures into the distance, and says "berewal" again. Rooke mimics Warungin and finally understands that "berewal" means something along the lines of "a great distance away." Warungin points out to sea and says "Cammera-gal," and then to himself and says "Cadigal." Rooke realizes that Warungin must be of the Cadigal tribe. Warungin touches Rooke's chest and says, "Berewal-gal," and Rooke understands that he himself is of the Berewalgal tribe, or the "great-distance-off tribe." Though Rooke is thrilled to have a name, he's also shocked to realize that even with all the skills and belongings that the white men have, to the Cadigal, they're just another tribe.
Rooke shows that he has a long way to go towards truly living his belief that all people are equal: his shock that Warungin doesn't think of the white settlers as being anything but just another tribe is absolutely rooted in imperialist ideas. Warungin's conceptualization of the settlers as another tribe also suggests that there's a greater sense of community and less of a focus on hierarchy in the native culture, since he also doesn't position his own tribe as superior.
Themes
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Rooke wants to learn more, but Warungin gets up. Though Rooke doesn’t detect any signal, a group of natives, including women and children, file down the hill and stop in front of the hut. Rooke listens as Warungin gives some sort of speech, and then the men sit down with Warungin. An old woman walks towards Rooke's hut and he gestures for her to come inside. She looks around and doesn't seem to find it interesting, but calls to the other women. They all crowd inside and inspect Rooke's belongings. When a woman picks up one of Rooke's books, he wonders if they understand the idea of a square, and if they have a Euclid of their own who has discovered geometry.
For Rooke, the mathematical discoveries of the Western world are one of the reasons it's superior; wondering if the Cadigal have made any of the same discoveries suggests that he's open to accepting that the Western possibly doesn't have a monopoly on science and math. The fact that Rooke understands that Warungin gave some sort of signal shows that he's also becoming more attuned to the natives and how they communicate, which in turn shows that he's becoming more open with them.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
The children hide behind the women's legs, but Rooke catches the eye of a young boy and manages to wink at him. The boy darts towards Rooke and touches one of the buttons on his jacket. When the boy realizes the button won't hurt him, he begins touching and pulling at other parts of Rooke's jacket and shouting. The women begin speaking to Rooke with the few English words they've learned, mostly greetings. Rooke replies to them. It's all merry until one woman picks up Rooke's shaving razor. He jumps up, grabs it from her, and tries to demonstrate that the razor is very sharp, but the joyful spell is broken.
The fact that Rooke and the native women share some words enables this joyful experience. This suggests that relationships aren't just contingent on sharing language; they can also come about through shared experiences and openness. Rooke's jump for the razor, however, ruins the experience because it implies he doesn't trust them to figure out or understand that the razor is sharp.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
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It begins to rain. Rooke looks outside, sticks his hand out to catch a few drops, and then turns to the women and asks what they call the wet. One of the young girls comes forward and touches Rooke's palm. As they look at each other, Rooke thinks he recognizes the same kind of excitement to learn new things in her as he has within himself. She strokes his palm and speaks, and then purses her lips at Rooke. Rooke repeats what she says—"marray”—and the girl smiles. She says the word again and motions to the rain.
Here, Rooke's recognition that the young girl is curious continues to develop the idea that friendship often comes out of a shared sense of curiosity about the other and about how to share things with the other. Without this curiosity and some openness, language doesn't actually work well, as evidenced by the uneasy standoff between the governor and the natives for the first half of the book.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Rooke comments in English about the downpour, and wonders why he can make small talk now but never when he actually needs to. The girl looks seriously at Rooke and speaks slowly and clearly. Rooke struggles to mimic the sounds, and finally manages to speak the phrase. The women smile and nod when he finally gets it, and Rooke wonders what exactly the phrase means.
Rooke struggles with small talk because it doesn't actually communicate much; it's as much a way to fill silence as anything else. Here, he struggles to communicate and feels the pressure for the first time to fill silence, hence his sudden proficiency with small talk.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
The rain stops, and the young boy and two women saunter out of the hut. The girl speaks another word that Rooke struggles to repeat. He doesn't know what it means, but he thinks that the clear message is that both he and the girl want to speak to each other. The old woman brings Rooke's fire back to life, and Rooke puts his hand on his chest and says his name. The girl understands immediately, places a hand on her own chest, and speaks, though Rooke must work to finally make sense of it. Finally, he gets it: the girl's name is Tagaran. She smiles when he says it.
Learning about a community the way that both Tagaran and Rooke would like to means they must start by learning about each other. Now that Rooke has both the name of the community (Cadigal) and of an individual willing to speak with him (Tagaran), he can begin to fill in the in-between spaces to piece together how the language works, as well as how individuals function within their community.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Rooke pulls down a notebook and writes down Tagaran's name as well as the two other phrases. He reads the phrases back to her, and she smiles with delight. The old woman calls for the children to go, and Rooke says goodbye to them. The hut suddenly feels empty. Rooke sits back down with his notebooks and thinks that language isn't just lists of words. It's a machine, and in order to understand it, one must dismantle the machine. Rooke knows he's capable of this, and feels as though this is his destiny. He pictures the day when he presents the governor with his notebooks, and thinks that what he'll learn is as important as Galileo's discoveries. Learning the language will allow him to truly understand the Cadigal society.
True to his nature, Rooke decides to develop a very scientific, rational way of learning and thinking about something that's very human and arbitrary. On a bare bones level, Rooke is right in doing this: thinking about language as a machine is how many people, even today, learn language. However, at some point, a language student understands that the machine can't teach them everything. For Rooke, learning that he needs to sit and wait is one of those silent parts of language that isn't necessarily encompassed in the machine.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Storytelling and Truth Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Rooke draws up columns in his notebooks to organize the words he learns alphabetically. Then, he pulls out a second notebook and organizes a system for collecting Cadigal grammar. When he's finished, he admires his notebooks and thinks that he's setting off into the unknown. He again feels as though this is his destiny.
As he develops his system in his notebook, Rooke shows that he's thinking about the Cadigal language in much the same way he thinks about Greek and Latin: as something he'll simply read and understand, not necessarily in terms of conversation potential or a different culture or worldview. This is still a solitary, not communal, endeavor for him.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon