The Lieutenant

by

Kate Grenville

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The Lieutenant: Part 4, Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
A messenger boy runs to Rooke's hut and tells him that the natives have speared Brugden and he's going to die. Rooke isn't surprised. The boy continues his message and says that Major Wyatt has asked for Rooke to come to the barracks that evening, no matter what. Later, the mood in the barracks is dark. Rooke knows that nobody liked Brugden, but everyone knows that things will change after this incident.
As when Worogan, Tugear, and Tagaran were beaten, Brugden's spearing puts a known face to the consequences of abstracting violence. It also shows how community functions: the attack on Brugden will influence the entire settlement.
Themes
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Silk regales everyone with the story: the gamekeepers were near Botany Bay when they saw armed natives creeping towards them. Brugden had put down his musket and spoken to the natives in Cadigal, but one of the natives jumped without warning and speared Brugden. Rooke wonders if Silk's account is the truth. Silk continues and says that Brugden is still alive, but will die soon. Timpson mutters something as the crowd erupts, but Silk speaks over them and says that Warungin was brought to the hospital. Warungin told them that the spear belongs to a man named Carangaray. The room erupts again, and Rooke tries to shrink to nothing. He wishes Brugden would live.
Remember how shifty Brugden was when explaining to the governor what happened on the Rose Hill expedition: Rooke figured he was lying, which suggests that Brugden has a history of being violent to the natives and then obscuring the truth. Because the success of the settlement depends on doing away with any threats to community members, however, those in power will inevitably believe Brugden's tale over the more likely truth that the natives were justified in their actions.
Themes
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Storytelling and Truth Theme Icon
Lennox shouts that the natives only understand guns, and a few deaths would end this problem outright. Major Wyatt ignores this, and Silk assures everyone that Governor Gilbert is considering what should be done. Rooke sees Willstead roll his eyes, and Willstead quietly asks how long the governor will wait to punish the natives, since he should've done so a long time ago. Major Wyatt silences Willstead, and Lennox continues to suggest that it'd be easy to round up a few natives and shoot them to set an example.
Major Wyatt's silence allows Rooke to observe someone else's complicity with violence. Regardless of Wyatt's true feelings, his reaction when Willstead questions the governor suggests that Wyatt is far more concerned with preserving the status quo and going along with this violence, if it means that England will be able to continue colonization.
Themes
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Willstead begins an angry tirade about how the natives never fight fairly. He insists that the word "treachery" isn't even in their vocabulary. Rooke thinks he doesn't know if this is true or not, but he thinks that even in English the word means more than it should. He thinks that it's easy enough to see how Warungin might see the situation: guests who were initially pleasant overstayed their welcome and changed his home without asking. Rooke thinks of his grandmother saying that fish and visitors stink after three days.
Willstead's thoughts on "treachery" become a study in the intersection of science and truth: at this point, his belief is nothing more than an untested hypothesis at best, and a malicious story at worst. Rooke is now able to question the entire project of colonizing New South Wales, which shows that he's still trying to figure out if and how to disassociate with the military.
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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The next day, Rooke jumps up when he hears footsteps, hoping it's Tagaran. It's Silk, with a serious look on his face. Silk explains that they're being sent to Botany Bay on a punitive expedition, and he's been chosen to lead it. Rooke sees that despite Silk's seriousness, his eyes are bright. He congratulates Silk, and confirms that he's after Carangaray. Silk raises a toast and explains that he is tasked with bringing in six natives from the Botany Bay area. Rooke is aghast that Gilbert wants more than just Carangaray, and Silk confides that the governor initially wanted Silk to bring back ten men, but Silk talked him out of that.
If one follows Rooke's earlier assertion that people are people, and all are worthy of life and respect, Silk talking the governor down to six men becomes ridiculous. It shows that Silk truly believes that he did a good thing, when the truth of the matter is that he's still going to be the one to bring either captivity or death to six innocent people. The way he constructs his story, however, obscures this truth; he's using careful storytelling to serve his own desires.
Themes
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Storytelling and Truth Theme Icon
Silk says that he told Gilbert that Rooke would certainly join the expedition, along with Willstead and 30 privates. Rooke tries to imagine them all marching through the woods, but cannot imagine himself joining. Without thinking, Rooke refuses to go. Silk ignores this, and reminds Rooke that the governor is already aware that Rooke will join: refusing isn't an option. Rooke thinks of Tagaran watching him march through the woods.
The way that Silk handles Rooke's refusal shows that even if Rooke questions their friendship, Silk still cares about Rooke enough to protect him from punishment. The fact that Rooke refuses without thinking suggests that this decision isn't rational; it's emotional. Rooke is finally embracing his full humanity.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Rooke tries to distract Silk by telling him that Cadigal grammar uses the dual plural and dual plural pronouns, like in Greek. He exclaims that English doesn't even do that; it uses clunky phrases like "you and me" and "me and these others but not you." Silk isn't amused. He says again that Gilbert has Rooke's name and the expedition leaves on Wednesday. Rooke looks at his feet and thinks that he can't tell Silk that he can't go because he's too fond of Tagaran. Instead, he asks Silk to not ask this of him. Silk clears his throat and insists that it is an order.
Though Rooke doesn't verbalize it in as many words, he sees the presence of dual plural pronouns as being indicative of an inherent sense of community within Cadigal culture. It allows them to more easily talk about groups of people, while English makes it awkward and difficult—just as this order makes it difficult for Rooke to want to be a part of the English community.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Silk says warmly that the natives hide so well, they'll never find anyone. Rooke thinks that this is true, and 33 men stomping through the woods will be impossible for the natives to miss. Silk tells Rooke to think of it as theatre. He says that a show of force must be made, but they surely won't capture any natives. Silk doesn't wait for Rooke to agree, but shakes his hand and leaves.
Rooke's desperate acceptance of Silk's logic shows that he's not quite ready yet to truly separate himself from the British colonialist system. He'd like to believe that theatre does no harm, but the evidence thus far suggests that this mission will not end well, and at the very least will degrade Rooke’s moral character.
Themes
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Storytelling and Truth Theme Icon
As Rooke reads that evening, he wishes Gardiner were there to give him advice. Rooke remembers their last conversation about capturing the natives, and thinks that Gardiner would spell out the consequences of refusing the order, just as he had done then. Rooke thinks that he now knows that serving humanity and serving the king aren't the same thing. He wishes he could apologize to Gardiner for how he spoke.
When Rooke uses language to actually verbalize the choice he'll have to make (serve the king, or serve humanity), it again shows that spoken language is transformative and powerful.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Rooke thinks that he had never allowed himself to stop and wonder what he's actually doing with his life. He thinks that Silk's logic that capturing a native is impossible is somewhat faulty, and realizes he's speaking out loud. He says to himself that he could ensure that no native is caught.
Speaking out loud helps Rooke make the choice to serve a greater community, just as speaking with Tagaran helped him realize the true meaning of friendship. For Rook at least, the act of speaking is more nuanced and powerful than writing.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon