The Lieutenant

by

Kate Grenville

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The Lieutenant: Part 3, Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Rooke learns the names of several women who visit the observatory. The tall woman is Barringan, and she's either Boneda's mother or aunt. The older woman is Mauberry, and she reminds Rooke of his grandmother. The women sit by their fire a little way away with their babies in their laps, making fishhooks and cords. Some days Warungin leads the procession to the observatory. He sits with Rooke and ignores him when he tries to say something, which is a humbling experience for Rooke.
As Rooke learns the names of the natives and their relationships to each other, his thinking starts to shift further towards considering them as more like himself—these people have grandmothers and aunts, just like he does. Warungin teaches Rooke more of the nonverbal language of the Cadigal, though when the novel doesn't mention Rooke writing this down, it shows he still doesn't consider it "true" language.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
When Warungin comes with other men, he abandons his stern face and tells stories. Rooke can't follow, but he does recognize some of the settlers that Warungin mimics. Occasionally, Warungin gives Rooke a language lesson, teaching him the names of tools and weapons. He doesn't appreciate Rooke's need to write the words down, but he patiently allows him to do so.
When Warungin allows Rooke to record things, it shows that just as Rooke is learning the nonverbal communication that allows him to form friendships, Warungin is similarly allowing Rooke his quirks and desires. He might not understand it, but allowing it shows he cares for Rooke as a person.
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Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
After Warungin's lesson, the children join Rooke at the hut. Tagaran, Boneda, and Worogan always come, sometimes accompanied by two girls named Tugear and Ngalgear who are possibly sisters, though Rooke isn't sure. When the other children grow tired of the word games, Rooke and Tagaran have real conversations. She starts calling him “kamara,” which means "friend." Rooke recognizes that Tagaran is a born leader, unlike himself. She fearlessly engages with the world.
The tone of the text conveys that Rooke finds his conversations with Tagaran very exciting, which in turn suggests that Rooke is very happy to be building friendship and community with the natives. Calling Rooke "kamara" gives the relationship a name and makes it real, just as mapping stars makes them similarly real in Rooke’s mind.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
As Tagaran gives Rooke more words, he abandons his system and starts using a pencil rather than ink. He only writes down as much English as he needs to remember what was said, and he finds the process exhilarating. He's delighted when he realizes the natives are already appropriating some English words and applying their own grammar rules to them. When Rooke finds that he's doing the same, he realizes that the two languages are melting into each other and dissolving boundaries.
Rooke's switch to pencil is symbolic of a step in his journey towards seeing language as spoken and fluid, not just neatly written and rational—pencil is faster, looser, and most importantly, allows him to speak and listen more. The appropriated language shows that Rooke's theoretical world community truly is real, as the boundaries between smaller communities are easy to dissolve.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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One afternoon, Tagaran runs into the hut, wet and covered in goose bumps. She tells Rooke to get out of her way of the fire, and says a word that Rooke understands to mean that she's been swimming or bathing. He tells her it's too cold for bathing, and when she catches his tone—that of an older brother—she gives him an exasperated look. Rooke grabs his jacket to put it around Tagaran's shoulders, but she gracefully twirls out of the jacket and hands it back to him.
It's important to note and remember how important tone of voice and body language are in this exchange, as Rooke will later fail to record this in his notes with disastrous consequences. This continues to show that Rooke's scientific method, while it was initially useful, is running its course and is becoming less useful by the day as his human relationships progress.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Storytelling and Truth Theme Icon
Rooke instantly regrets that he touched Tagaran, and thinks of how he'd feel if some native man had touched Anne like that. He steps back and apologizes, and then takes his time hanging up his jacket and moving as far away from her as he can. Tagaran mulls this over, and finally acts out something that makes Rooke understand that she knows she'll get warm faster if she's naked. He realizes that she's correct, and that she also seems to understand why he feels ashamed and uneasy.
Rooke's regret shows that he thinks of the natives as people with private bodies, just like him. This belief stands in stark contrast with how other soldiers speak about the natives throughout the novel (dirty, less than human, sexualized), differentiating Rooke from them and, in turn, from the military and the imperialist mindset.
Themes
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Rooke takes his time recording their conversation. When he's done, Tagaran is dry and he has stopped blushing. She follows Rooke to his water source, where he begins filling the kettle. When Boneda joins them, Rooke allows him to finish filling the kettle. In the hut the children help stoke the fire, and then they watch Rooke shave. Worogan points to Rooke's nose and laughs, and Rooke understands that she and Tagaran either have some private joke about shaving or are being cheeky to him.
Rooke's understanding that Tagaran and Worogan have a private joke (as well as his disinterest in figuring it out) shows that he no longer feels so entitled to the natives’ language. By being willing to let that joke be something between them, he's becoming more respectful of their agency as people, and is slowly shedding his racist thought processes. 
Themes
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Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
When Rooke finishes, Tagaran picks up the kettle and asks permission to pour the leftover warm water into the basin. She puts her hands into the basin and Rooke puts his hand in next to hers, thinking that his pink hand looks unfinished next to her dark skin.
Rooke's observation about his hand continues this process of shedding the idea that he's superior because he's white--here, Tagaran's "finished" hand is indeed thought of as being superior.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Rooke takes Tagaran's hands and lathers them with soap. He gently wipes her face with a cloth and then hands it to her, gesturing for her to wash the rest of her body herself. He watches the surprise on her face at the strange feeling of warm water, and jokes that if she washes herself often, she'll become white. Rooke doesn't know if she understands, but thinks it's an absurd enough joke that she'd appreciate it. Tagaran scrubs at her arm and then throws the cloth down, exclaiming something as she does so. Rooke thinks the exclamation is some sort of a denial of his joke and curses himself for making a poor joke, but she winks at him. Rooke laughs when he realizes she was only continuing their joke, but also realizes that things could go wrong quickly.
Putting aside the fact that all parties do get the joke and find it humorous, the joke itself implies a racist attitude of positioning white skin as the baseline, and dark skin as consequently abnormal (or even “dirty”). However, when Tagaran understands the joke and runs with it, it shows that both she and Rooke are becoming very proficient in the unspoken aspects of language that allow them to successfully make jokes. Their friendship is also strong enough by this point to make such jokes acceptable.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
As evening comes, the women pick up their babies. Rooke sees Tagaran and Worogan whispering together, and Tagaran speaks to Rooke and makes a sleeping gesture. Rooke works out that she's asking to sleep in his hut. He goes to Mauberry and Barringan and tries to explain, and they confirm that Tagaran and Worogan can sleep in the hut. They laugh, though he doesn't understand what they're saying. Rooke remembers the novelty of sleeping somewhere new, and recalls asking to sleep in a tent behind his house in Portsmouth.
Throughout this passage, Rooke is able to fully universalize the childhood desire to sleep somewhere new and different, which in turn shows that children are children, regardless of where they grow up and what language they speak. This continues to provide more evidence to Rooke that the natives are not so different from the British settlers.
Themes
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Rooke shares his dinner with Tagaran and Worogan, and makes sweet tea with the warraburra leaves. They find the teacups extraordinary. When it's time for bed, Worogan lies down in front of the fireplace. Tagaran points to one of Rooke's blankets and makes Worogan get up so they can spread the blanket on the floor. The girls lie down and Rooke records "warraburra" in his notebook, but Tagaran sits up and asks Rooke to cover her with a blanket. Rooke thinks that she won't like the texture of the scratchy blanket, but he covers her anyway. He thinks that she'll learn for herself, and wonders if his father felt about him like he feels about Tagaran now. He wants to protect her, but knows he has to let her learn her own way.
Rooke's parental feelings complete his process of universalizing both childhood experiences and familial experiences. It drives home the fact that love and caring are universal. This event is also indicative of the trust that's sprung up between Rooke and the natives, a necessary part of true friendship. On the other hand, it also throws Rooke's mindset into sharp relief when compared to the still-racist attitudes of the other settlers, which shows just how far Rooke has strayed from his military and British cultural training.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Rooke records the joke he and Tagaran shared earlier in his notebook, and adds an explanation of what was happening. He realizes that his explanation cannot convey exactly what happened and wonders how he could possibly write the full truth. He thinks that he'd have to be like Silk, but decides what he wrote will have to suffice. Rooke gets down his overcoat and covers himself with it in bed. He picks up a book and begins reading, thinking that his hut feels cozy with the girls here.
Here, Rooke understands that in order to understand what the truth really is, one has to experience it firsthand. Neither recording these experiences in his scientific way nor turning them into more of a narrative à la Silk will effectively convey the subtlety of the joke. Because of this, the joke aspect of the exchange will exist entirely in Rooke's head, which means it will be much harder to share it with others.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Storytelling and Truth Theme Icon
Related Quotes
A few minutes later, Tagaran calls to Rooke. When he asks in her language why she isn't sleeping, she asks him to "put out the blanket" in her language. Rooke is confused, but gets up to uncover her. Tagaran glares at him, and finally realizes she made a mistake with her vocabulary. She points to the candle, and Rooke jokingly blows on the blanket as though to blow out a candle. Tagaran whispers something about having made a mistake, and Rooke agrees but assures her that mistakes are normal. As she closes her eyes, he thinks that the person he is with Tagaran is very unlike Lieutenant Daniel Rooke, but that this person must have been inside him all along.
Rooke and Tagaran's friendship is strong enough now that language mistakes help, not hinder. This in turn shows that they're now conversational enough in the other's language to be able to move past mistakes like this and, most importantly, it’s okay to make these mistakes without awful consequences. All of this shines light on Rooke's sense of emotion. When compared with his lifelessness in the military, it suggests he'll soon have to choose between the military/British colonialism and this kind of cross-cultural friendship.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Rooke feels warm with the girls sleeping in the hut. He gets up, pours himself a brandy, and goes outside to look at the moon. He thinks about the way that Tagaran calls him “kamara,” and wonders if this is how it feels to be a parent. He thinks that when he does have children, he'll remember this time, but realizes that there aren't words for his friendship with Tagaran.
Though Rooke is well aware of the word "kamara" and knows what it means, the fact that he's unable to articulate to himself, in English, that he and Tagaran are friends shows that his rational mind is keeping him from fully allowing himself to enjoy the friendship. The desire to define is constricting.
Themes
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Violence and Rationality Theme Icon