The Lieutenant

by

Kate Grenville

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The Lieutenant: Part 3, Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Rooke considers destroying his notebooks after making copies that omit parts that would be easily misunderstood. He decides against it when he realizes that in order to do so he'd need to distort the entries himself, which would make them "real" but not "true." Later when he sees the women and children coming down the path, he's glad to see them, but he also detects a sense of dread in his heart. Tagaran enters the hut and picks up Rooke's musket. Rooke tries to stop her, but she picks it up and pretends to sight and shoot. He wonders where she'd seen someone shoot, and remembers the day he came ashore and Surgeon Weymark shot through the shield. Rooke thinks he didn't find it funny, and wonders why he laughed. He thinks that Tagaran probably heard about it.
By deciding not to make copies of his notebooks, Rooke subconsciously decides that he's never going to share them. This will prevent others from misreading them, and allow only him to look at them as a record of his relationship with Tagaran. Tagaran's interest in the gun is disturbing, given that she's so young and guns aren't an inherent part of her culture, but her interest shows that the violence of the settlers is insidious. Language isn't the only thing that goes both ways; violence, both real and theoretical, does too.
Themes
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Storytelling and Truth Theme Icon
Rooke takes the gun from Tagaran, but she picks it back up and, with gestures, asks how it works. Rooke thinks of the governor's orders that no one can show the natives how guns work, particularly that they must be loaded. Rooke tries to distract her, but her curiosity seems more intense today. Finally, Rooke pulls down his bullets and offers her one to inspect before loading it into the muzzle. As he loads it, Rooke wonders how he could've ever seen a gun as simply a marvelous example of mechanics. He sees fascination on Tagaran's face and wants to tell her that a gun is nothing to admire.
Tagaran's curiosity throughout this sequence shows that the governor's orders are inherently flawed and racist, as they imply that the natives will simply be happy to believe that the guns work through some sort of magic. Rooke's shift towards being fully human is imminent, as evidenced by his horror that he ever thought the guns were pleasing.
Themes
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Somehow, Tagaran knows there's more. Rooke shows her how the gun creates a spark, but Tagaran insists on seeing the powder. Rooke carefully shakes some into his palm and puts some in the gun, but he doesn't put any powder behind the bullet. This way, the gun cannot fire a bullet, and Rooke technically isn't breaking the rules. Tagaran follows Rooke outside. The women and other children are gone, and Rooke rationalizes that the noise would frighten the women's babies if they'd been there. Rooke makes Tagaran stand back as he pulls the trigger. The gun goes off and Tagaran jumps and screams with delight, which disturbs Rooke. He turns around and asks her if she's happy now.
It's worth noting that part of Rooke's discomfort with all of this comes from seeing aspects of himself (curiosity, a mechanically inclined mind, logic) reflected in Tagaran. Though this doesn't bother him at other times, now that she's interested in using her own rational mind to learn about violence, he sees again how wrong he was to ever rationalize violence in the first place. This experience also likely colors how Rooke thinks about his military training, as this is very similar in that there's no real enemy, just abstracted symbols of violence.
Themes
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Tagaran isn't fooled. She knows that the bullet didn't leave the barrel. Rooke wishes she were stupid as she mimes what she wants to see. Rooke refuses. He thinks that the noise and the flash are fun, but shooting a bullet is another language that conveys the ability to kill. He doesn't want her to learn that from him. Tagaran pouts and grabs at the gun. In English, he begs her to stop. He puts the gun behind him, grabs her wrist, and cries for her to stop asking.
Rooke's new understanding of the implications of the language of violence (like the ability to kill) connects to his realization that nonverbal language is essential to communicate. When Tagaran's desire to learn about violence turns into an emotionally charged, painful experience, it drives home that rationalizing violence isn't at all positive. 
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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Rooke realizes he's angry. Tagaran spits out angry words that Rooke can't understand in reply, and he lets her go and steps back. He realizes this isn't a game. Rooke thinks he never thought he'd speak angrily to her or use force, and doesn't understand exactly what happened. He thinks that he should've just fired the gun. Tagaran turns away, and Rooke calls after her to come tomorrow. Without looking at him she says, "kamara, goodbye." She disappears over the ridge.
Rooke now learns the consequences of behaving violently, even with objectively good intentions: the possible end of a friendship. When he thinks that he should've fired the gun for her, it shows that he's becoming willing to totally disregard the orders from the governor, and is therefore now willing to distance himself from the military in action as well as thought.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Rooke sits on his bed and wonders why Tagaran wanted to know how to fire a gun. He wonders if she'd been chosen to learn English, the culture of the Berewalgal, and how guns work. Rooke thinks that Tagaran would be the perfect choice for such a mission, as she's curious but innocent. He realizes that he'd been flattered by her friendship, and thinks that she used him. Rooke's throat feels constricted as he thinks that she didn't actually enjoy spending time with him and only valued him for what he could give her—which is how he had started out thinking of her.
Just as rationalizing violence isn't sustainable, neither is rationalizing friendship. In realizing that he initially thought of Tagaran more as a tool than as a person, Rooke is confronted with the ugly truth: he is Berewalgal, whether he likes it or not. As he thinks through this, he tells himself a story that distorts a friendship he thought of as truth (though the novel will go on to prove that his story here actually obscures the truth).
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Storytelling and Truth Theme Icon
The next day, Rooke follows the track the natives normally take towards their settlement. When he's close enough to see their camp, he sees that their huts are empty. He sits down on a rock and watches the sunset. As he does, he thinks that he doesn't understand how this world of New South Wales works like Tagaran does, and thinks that Tagaran would be similarly blind and lost in Portsmouth.
Here, Rooke considers how he and Tagaran function within their communities. Their communities provide them their identities and influence how they move through the world, and changing or losing communities means losing a sense of identity.
Themes
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Rooke recalls telling Tagaran about Portsmouth. He'd told her that there's a harbor, and he'd remembered being a boy on the pebble beach. That boy wanted to be someplace where he could remake himself, and Rooke realizes that New South Wales was that place of his boyhood dreams. He'd told Tagaran that Portsmouth was a good place and she'd nodded, but he thought that it wasn't the full truth.
Rooke lied to Tagaran; the novel made it very clear that Portsmouth wasn't that great for Rooke. He was lonely, he was bullied, and he learned to rationalize violence and retreat within himself to escape sadness and loneliness.
Themes
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Storytelling and Truth Theme Icon
Rooke wonders what it's like to be Tagaran and walk around naked and barefoot. He looks around and makes sure he's totally alone before taking off his shoes and socks. He takes a few steps before stepping on a twig that stops him in his tracks, and wonders if a tiny twig is enough to stop him from walking like Tagaran. Rooke feels unsettled and realizes that he's no longer happy in his own company. He longs for Tagaran's company. He thinks that he was foolish to not show Tagaran how the gun worked, and should have fired it and let her learn.
This realization that he's not happy with his own company represents a turning point in Rooke's journey: he's no longer a wholly solitary individual like he was in Portsmouth. His friendship with Tagaran has shown him that community, even if it's just a community of two, is essential to happiness and, indeed, to feeling fully human.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
At his hut, Rooke gets out his notebooks. He understands that Tagaran likely won't return, and the notebooks are all he'll have of their friendship. He opens a notebook to a random page. It's his first entry, when he recorded "marray, wet." Rooke feels chilled at how confident he'd been as he made those first entries. He realizes that marray could mean any number of things: raindrop, mud, or skin, but the way he wrote it erases any other possibilities. He also knows now that marray doesn't mean wet. In fact, it's a modifier, like "very."
Finally, Rooke understands that by writing down language in his scientific style, he deprives it of nuance. In this way, the novel shows that Rooke wasn't just rationalizing language; he rationalized communication and divorced it from emotion. By questioning these early entries, Rooke discovers that the notebooks also tell the story of his own transformation from dedicated but blind scientist to feeling, emotional friend.
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
Related Quotes
Rooke edits several of his entries to encompass some of his doubt, including the one about Tagaran standing by his fire after bathing. He realizes he made a mistake in his translation and fixes it. As he does, Rooke thinks about how he used to think he was superior to Silk. He realizes that both he and Silk thought learning a language is about learning one-to-one translations, something he now knows is foolish. Rooke thinks that learning Cadigal has taught him "the language of doubt," and is teaching him to admit when he's unsure of something. He realizes, too, that Latin and Greek never taught him that learning a language means forming a relationship with the people who speak the language, not just amassing lists of verbs.
Learning the language of doubt opens Rooke up to truly doubt the purpose, morality, and righteousness of everything else—including his involvement in the British military. In this way, the novel also suggests that truth isn't something static. Rooke initially thought he was recording truth, when in reality he recorded his own lack of understanding. By questioning that, he realizes that his early misunderstanding is the real truth, while his initial thoughts about his notebooks are nothing more than a story like Silk’s.
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
Related Quotes