The Lieutenant

by

Kate Grenville

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The Lieutenant: Part 3, Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
A week later, Tagaran, Tugear, and Worogan race down the path to Rooke's hut, yelling for him. They're breathless and crying, and Tagaran's arm is covered in blood. Rooke ushers them inside, settles them next to the fire, and gets them water and bread. Tagaran tries to tell Rooke what happened, but suddenly Tugear and Tagaran start laughing. Rooke asks the girls to tell him what happened. Tagaran slowly tells Rooke in Cadigal that a white man beat Tugear. Rooke feels himself shrinking as Tagaran acts out what happened and shows him her hurt arm, hand, and Tugear's back.
This event shows how Rooke's perception of violence and his sense of community interact. Now that English violence is hurting people he actually knows and cares deeply about, the violence is much less abstract. This also makes it clear that the settlers are absolutely not following the king's supposed wish to treat the natives well.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Rooke takes Tagaran's hands in his own and gently inspects her swollen hand. Tagaran pulls her hand back and says something in an accusatory tone. Rooke tries to inspect Tugear's back, but she turns away in fear. He carefully asks Tugear in Cadigal why she's afraid, and she answers that she's afraid of the men. Tagaran again acts out what happened and points to the wounds as though Rooke doesn't understand that they hurt. He suspects that she heard about the flogging. She's angry, and Rooke knows that she wants him to be angry too and deal with the man who hurt them.
It's important to note here that this isn't a language lesson anymore; Rooke and the girls are fully able to communicate about all of this. This means there's no way to hide from the truth, as there's no real barrier to understanding. Tugear's fear, coupled with her phrasing that she's afraid of "the men," implies that Rooke is a part of that grouping. Essentially, Rooke cannot escape his association with the violent settlers, even if he is friends with the victims of those settlers.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Rooke tells the girls that he's very angry, but he knows he doesn't sound angry. Tagaran asks if he's angry with them, which shocks him. He insists he's not angry with the girls, but realizes that Tagaran only asked the question to make him look at her. Rooke meets Tagaran's eyes and she asks him to speak. Rooke realizes that for the first time, this isn't a language lesson: they understand each other, and he cannot hide. Rooke asks who she wants him to speak with, and Tagaran asks him to speak to the man from the Charlotte who beat them.
Rooke's realization that this isn't a lesson anymore makes him aware that he's inarguably complicit in what happened to the girls; he cannot deny his involvement by association unless he’s willing to take drastic action against the other colonists. Though they never identify exactly the man who beat them, it's worth noting that Silk sailed on the Charlotte and it's possible that he did this. This continues to complicate Rooke's friendship with him and indeed, with any of the other soldiers.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Rooke imagines approaching the captain of the Charlotte and reporting the incident. He imagines the soldier in question insisting that the girls stole something small and inconsequential. Rooke can't imagine himself in the scene. Worogan asks if she can have some of the leftover biscuit, and Rooke realizes the girls understand perfectly that he's not going to stand up for them. He playacts trying to break the biscuit and finally cuts it with his hatchet. Worogan and Tugear laugh, but Tagaran isn't amused.
In Rooke's imagination, he very clearly sees that the soldier's story will be taken as truth, while the actual truth will be mocked—as will Rooke, for even suggesting the girls didn't deserve the beating. This again gets at the power dynamics that influence what's taken as truth and what isn't. The girls have no power with the soldiers, and therefore their truth isn't considered real.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Storytelling and Truth Theme Icon
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Rooke asks Tagaran if her finger is better, and he thinks her reply means that her finger is worse. After the girls eat, Tagaran shows Worogan and Tugear around the hut. When she shows them the sextant, she cautions them to not touch it and indicates that it's for looking at the stars. Rooke can tell she's purposefully ignoring the musket. Suddenly, the girls are off. They yell goodbye from the top of the rocks.
The mention of the musket foreshadows the possibility of violence to come. It also suggests that Rooke won't be able to ignore the fact that he's a British soldier who's paid to carry a gun for much longer.
Themes
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Alone, Rooke feels as though he has failed. He imagines again approaching the captain of the Charlotte and reporting the sailor, and knows it's impossible. He wonders if Tagaran's request was a test she knew he would fail, and he understands that they all know he's Berewalgal—and this means that he stands by when members of his tribe are cruelly punished, and he doesn’t stand up for his friends. Rooke realizes that he's been pretending otherwise, but it's impossible for him to continue doing so.
Rooke's final character shift now seems inevitable with the realization that he cannot pretend to be two different things. He'll have to make a choice between the “rational” violence of the military, and the emotional friendship he shares with Tagaran—between the racist mindset of imperialism and the empathetic mindset of friendship and cultural exchange. Now that Tagaran knows Rooke won't stand up for her, their friendship may also suffer, just as Rooke's friendship with Silk deteriorated in the absence of trust.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Storytelling and Truth Theme Icon
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