The Lieutenant

by

Kate Grenville

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Lieutenant can help.

The Lieutenant: Part 4, Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
At the parade ground the next morning, Rooke and Willstead listen to Silk enthusiastically describe his plan to trap the natives on a promontory. Rooke thinks it's a surprisingly good plan and without his warning to Tagaran, it might have worked. Rooke remembers Silk insisting that he think of it as theatre as he notices how thrilled Silk seems with his plan, and he reasons that even theatre needs to be convincing.
When Silk demonstrates how seriously he takes his role as commander, it raises major questions about whether or not he told Rooke the truth that the mission definitely isn't going to succeed. Rooke's rationalizing shows that he's scared for the outcome of this mission, though definitely not yet willing to call Silk out on his possible lies.
Themes
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Storytelling and Truth Theme Icon
The party marches for four hours before taking a break at the hut that Brugden built to use during his hunting expeditions. Rooke thinks about Brugden and the other gamekeepers sitting here, and realizes that just like he's a free man at his observatory, Brugden and the others could be free men here.
With all that Rooke has learned through his relationship with the natives, he can now think of even unlikeable Brugden as human and part of the greater human community—and therefore as deserving of freedom and happiness.
Themes
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Finally, the party emerges at Botany Bay. Silk calls a halt and tells the men to rest for an hour before they attack the camp. Rooke lies down and wishes the expedition were over. In his mind, he goes over the possible outcomes of the expedition. He tries to tell himself that the chances of capturing anyone are minimal, but continues to try to calculate the odds nonetheless. He remembers how Dr. Vickery used to joke about waiting for night and feels as though this will all be over once night falls.
Rooke's calculations are a nervous habit that will, in theory, make him feel better. The fact that they don't help at all suggests that Rooke's ability to successfully rationalize violence is ending and instead, he's becoming more feeling and more connected to others.
Themes
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
When the rest hour is up, the party marches to the neck of the promontory. Silk stops everyone and whispers the plan: the three lieutenants will each take ten men in a different direction and they'll all advance in ten minutes to form a human chain. Rooke leads his men to the north and after ten minutes leads them forward. When they meet up with the rest of the party at the village, they find that, although the maneuver was executed perfectly, the natives aren't in the village.
The end result is satisfying proof that rationalizing violence (in this case, through military strategy) isn't successful. However, the fact that Silk came up with it, coupled with his enthusiasm, suggests that he's now taken Rooke's place as the character most guilty of rationalizing violence.
Themes
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Get the entire The Lieutenant LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Lieutenant PDF
One of the men shouts and points down to the bay, where a native is pushing off in a canoe. More canoes are nearly to the far bank of the river. After a moment, Silk commands the men to fire at the natives. Rooke loads his musket slowly and clumsily, but he sees that the other soldiers are eager to shoot. By the time the guns are loaded the natives are out of range, but the men fire anyway. Rooke fires into the water and watches the final canoe draw away. He can see a child in the back of it, and he thinks of Tagaran.
Silk's attitude suggests that after failing at the battle maneuver, this truly is just theatre for him. Theatre is, however, inherently mimicry of some kind of truth—in this case, sneaking up on the camp and then shooting into the river still conveys that the settlers mean harm to the natives, even though it's unsuccessful. It suggests that intention matters almost as much as execution.
Themes
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Storytelling and Truth Theme Icon
Calmly, Silk praises the men. He says that they'll return to their resting spot and resume their march the next day. As they march, one of the soldiers points to the water and yells that there's a native there. Silk tells Rooke and Willstead not to look. Willstead is confused and begins to prepare his gun, but Silk snaps that they must continue as though they never saw the native. Willstead continues to look and yells that the man is coming to join the party. Silk calls a halt and tells the men that they'll let the native join them, and tells the men to not hurt the native.
This expedition is evidently not just theatre for Willstead; his desire to shoot an unarmed native who's willingly approaching betrays that he's fully behind the official goals of this expedition. When Willstead ignores Silk's orders, it also shows that he doesn't respect Silk's status. This is damaging to the entire structure of the military, as questioning authority means rational violence is impossible.
Themes
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Storytelling and Truth Theme Icon
Willstead reminds Silk that they're supposed to capture male natives, but Silk snaps that they can only take them by force. Willstead slowly repeats Silk’s faulty logic: the soldiers can only take the natives if the natives run, which makes it impossible to capture them, but they're not allowed to take the natives if the natives approach. A soldier sniggers.
The way that Willstead continues to question Silk's authority shows that he absolutely didn't come out here to walk around and not accomplish anything. He's dedicated to the most brutal of military ideals, and has become the true enemy.
Themes
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
The native man gets close enough to be identified as Warungin. He appears happy to spend time with the soldiers. Warungin asks what the party is doing, and Silk asks where Carangaray is. Warungin frowns and begins speaking and miming in Cadigal. Silk asks Rooke to translate, but Rooke truthfully replies that Warungin spoke too fast for him to understand. Silk and Warungin begin acting and gesturing to each other to communicate, and it finally becomes clear that Carangaray has gone too far away for the soldiers to pursue him effectively.
The text makes it clear that the settlers haven't put a face to Carangary's name; thus, the unspoken truth is that Warungin's story may not even be true. In this way, both the settlers and the Cadigal are engaging in a type of semi-convincing theatre on this expedition. Silk's willingness to communicate with Warungin shows that he was indeed truthful with Rooke that theatre is all this is.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Storytelling and Truth Theme Icon
Warungin follows the soldiers back to their campsite, but disappears soon after they arrive. Willstead remarks that Warungin is nice enough, but all the natives are unreliable. Warungin returns a while later with eight fish. He cooks them and offers some to the soldiers. Rooke lies down and feels more relaxed. He thinks that they'll tramp around for a few hours in the morning before heading back, and all will be well.
Willstead's comment links back to Rooke's understanding that community as conveyed by words like "putuwa" don't exist in English: it never crosses Willstead's mind that Warungin might be doing something nice for the settlers. His mindset is inherently colonial, not communal.
Themes
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Rooke thinks that Silk will certainly give the governor a detailed account of what happened, and the governor will be pleased. He thinks that the expedition will be a colorful chapter in Silk's book, and Rooke is almost sad he can't tell Silk about his role in its failure. Rooke sits up and decides to apply for another term of duty in New South Wales so that he can remain here, learning the language and continuing his relationship with Tagaran.
Rooke's decision to stay in New South Wales shows that the failure of this expedition has succeeded in conveying that being involved in the military is harmless, regardless of the military's true intentions. However, his desire to stay and speak with Tagaran also shows that the community he's building with the natives here is more fulfilling than anything he had at home.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon