The Lieutenant

by

Kate Grenville

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The Lieutenant: Part 3, Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Governor Gilbert calls Silk back from Rose Hill at the beginning of summer. When Silk complains to Rooke about how boring it was, Rooke assures him that he'll be able to make something interesting out of the experience. Rooke wonders how he should tell Silk about his experiences with the natives as Silk asks what Rooke has been up to. Rooke knows that he must tell, or his friendship with Tagaran will become a dangerous secret.
Rooke, unfortunately, isn't fully aware that the friendship is already a dangerous secret, if only because it's changing him so much in a way that's not conducive to continuing on with the British military. Regardless of this, Rooke's desire to tell shows that he does know that telling will, in theory, allow him to shape the truth.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Storytelling and Truth Theme Icon
Related Quotes
As Rooke tries to organize his thoughts to tell Silk, Silk finds Rooke's notebooks of the Cadigal language in a pile on the table. Silk asks permission to open the notebooks, and Rooke can't think of how to tell him no. Rooke tries to sidestep and asks Silk if there were any "encounters" at Rose Hill, and for a few minutes, he succeeds in distracting Silk. Silk recounts several attacks and disappearances and says that he believes trouble is coming. Rooke realizes he's been too caught-up in his own world to think about the wider world, and thinks his ignorance is dangerous.
Rooke is realizing the danger of having one foot in each culture. This suggests that his "isolation" at the observatory wasn't actually isolation—it was a rare opportunity for him to experience two different modes of forming community. Silk's fears suggest too that the "amity and kindness" isn't working as well as hoped, which continues to reinforce that the settlers are using the ambiguity of these words to their advantage.
Themes
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Storytelling and Truth Theme Icon
Silk finally opens Rooke's notebook and begins reading. He praises Rooke's work and sits back. Rooke unhappily thinks he'll have to get used to having no privacy. Silk tells Rooke he wants to include a chapter on the native language in his book, and asks Rooke if he plans to publish his notebooks. Rooke is taken aback and thinks of how different Silk is from him. Silk doesn't see the purpose of working hard on something if one doesn't mean to publish it, while Rooke only wanted to learn. Awkwardly, Rooke says that he believes his work wouldn't be of much interest, except to a few scholars.
With Silk's question, Rooke starts to see that the relationship between truth and storytelling is somewhat dependent on audience: for Rooke as his own solo audience, his truth is absolute. But as he shares his truth with others, from Silk to the wider world, the truth can and will change depending on how those others interpret it. This shows that what's considered truth isn't necessarily something that Rooke can control, hard as he tries.
Themes
Storytelling and Truth Theme Icon
Silk seems to relax and then admits that he wanted to include more of the language in his narrative. Silk asks if Rooke would be open to adding the contents of his notebooks to Silk's narrative as an appendix, with full credit and a fair share of the profit. Rooke suddenly becomes angry and says he doesn't care about the money. He thinks the notebooks are a record of the best time of his life, and they're priceless. Rooke calms himself and suggests they wait to see if there's enough to include. Silk absentmindedly tells Rooke that he'll hold him to that and begins flipping through the other notebook.
Silk's focus on storytelling and publishing with the goal of making a profit is easy to conceptualize here as being exploitative, both of his friendship with Rooke and of Rooke's relationships with the natives. In this way, the differences between Rooke and Silk come clearly to the surface: Silk is very much a British colonist, in that he believes in his right to the native language and culture. For Rooke, his relationship with the natives is something personal that benefits only him, and commodifying it would cheapen or destroy it.
Themes
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Storytelling and Truth Theme Icon
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Rooke watches surprise cross Silk's face. Silk reads out loud what Rooke wrote about the joke he shared with Tagaran about becoming white if she washed herself. Silk doesn't understand it was a joke, and Rooke hastily tries to explain. He realizes he failed at recording the joke. Silk continues flipping through the notebook and reads Rooke's description of Tagaran standing by Rooke's fire after bathing, and then an exchange about not desiring someone's company. Rooke feels stupid for writing the exchanges down in such detail. Silk seems almost envious as he asks Rooke if the girls at the brothel in the settlement aren't enough.
Though Rooke thinks of his care in recording things word for word as where he went wrong, what actually influences Silk's disturbing reading is that Rooke didn't record emotion, tone of voice, and nonverbal cues in his notebooks. Those nonverbal aspects of language are what make jokes work. Similarly, the fact that Rooke kept all of this a secret only amplifies Silk's unwillingness to be convinced that these exchanges are entirely innocent.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Storytelling and Truth Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Rooke is confused for a moment, and then understands Silk's meaning. He blushes and then yells "No!" Silk smiles, and Rooke knows that Silk believes that his relationship with Tagaran is sexual. Rooke tries to calmly explain that two children had been arguing and one didn't want to be in the other's company. Silk seems unconvinced, and Rooke tries to explain that "one of them" is a great language tutor. He feels ashamed for referring to Tagaran as "one of them," but thinks that doing so will protect her. Silk insists that he doesn't need an explanation, as both of them are "men of the world."
Rooke dehumanizes and depersonalizes Tagaran by referring to her as "one of them." In doing so, Rooke desperately tries to reclaim his identity as an imperialist-minded English soldier who thinks little of the natives, an identity he knows will protect him. Though this is very clearly not how he actually feels, it shows him trying to warp the truth, like Silk does, in order to make it seem more acceptable and comfortable.
Themes
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Storytelling and Truth Theme Icon
Rooke thinks that if he were a man of the world, he would've realized how Silk would read his notes. He thinks that Silk doesn't think that it's possible to share intimacy with a native girl that's not sexual in nature, and realizes too that he doesn't have the English words to describe his relationship with Tagaran. Rooke feels as though his decision not to tell anyone about his friendship with the natives has made everything look secretive. Silk admits that the native girls are charming, but warns Rooke that Gilbert is concerned for the settlement's safety. Rooke thanks Silk for his concern and takes his notebooks.
This is one of the final clinchers in the demise of Rooke and Silk's relationship, as it becomes clear to Rooke that Silk is fundamentally racist and won't be convinced otherwise. As Rooke struggles to find the word for his relationship with Tagaran, he forgets the joy he felt in the mutual exchange of language. Were he to remember that, "kamara" would describe their relationship just fine. This shows that Rooke still craves the rationality of English.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Storytelling and Truth Theme Icon