The Lieutenant

by

Kate Grenville

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The Lieutenant: Part 5, Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Fifty years later, Rooke still spends his time watching the stars. They didn't hang him for his defiance but when they suggested he apologize to Governor Gilbert and continue to serve in the military, he refused. Rooke instead went to Antigua. He found it fitting that he once watched a man hang there for disobeying, and now he's there after disobeying too.
This huge jump in the narrative speeds through the rest of Rooke’s life, including the details of his punishment. Rooke rationalizes his ending up in Antigua in much the same way he used to rationalize the pleasing mechanics of guns, which shows that the proclivity towards these satisfying, rational connections is still strong within him.
Themes
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Rooke lies awake in the dark, waiting for sunrise. He knows that death will come for him soon, as he's in great pain. Rooke looks around his room at the broken curtains and dirty floor. He tidies and cleans in his mind, but hasn't actually cleaned anything in weeks. Henrietta, his servant, is too busy caring for Rooke to clean, especially since he hasn't been able to pay her for a year. She stays out of a sense of honor. She told Rooke that he'd been good to her and the other slaves.
The fact that Henrietta stays with Rooke out of honor and friendship suggests that Rooke went on to do much good in his life after his time in New South Wales, in an attempt to pay his moral debt. Her presence and her role also show that he's found a sense of caring, supportive community here.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Rooke thinks that it's melodramatic to say that he gave his life for the slaves. He thinks that he technically only gave two thirds of his life to them, and wonders how ill he'll have to be before he stops thinking in rational numbers. Rooke's wife, son, and daughter are gone or dead, and now he only has Henrietta. Rooke hears her in the kitchen and knows that she'll soon bring him a slice of mango and some boiled yam. Rooke dreams about eating oatmeal, but in Antigua, oatmeal is a luxury and he has no money.
Rooke's mention that he has children calls into question whether he experienced with them what he experienced with Tagaran and Worogan when they stayed the night in his hut—but we aren’t given the details of this. Now that Rooke is at the end of his life, he can look back on it and decide what was true and what wasn't, and what story he wants to tell about it.
Themes
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Storytelling and Truth Theme Icon
Rooke bought Henrietta at an auction, along with many other slaves. He began keeping track of how many he'd bought, but soon stopped. Rooke had freed them all, and when he ran out of money to pay them, they all left except for Henrietta.
In the case of buying slaves to free them, applying math to it simply wasn't useful. Freeing them was what mattered, which shows that doing good deeds for humanity means one must sometimes be “irrational.”
Themes
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
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Rooke wonders if he should regret the decision he made to defy the governor in New South Wales, but he only wishes that he could see his wife and Anne again, and maybe eat oatmeal. He finds he doesn't regret his decision. Rooke hears Henrietta coming up the stairs. She feeds him a bite of the yam and then the mango, even though he doesn't really want to eat anything. When he's finished, he lies back and thinks he can't bear to suffer through another day. Henrietta sits for a while and holds his hands.
What Rooke misses are his positive, community-oriented relationships (and the food that was part of them). This drives home how important community became to him after his experiences in New South Wales. In the present, Henrietta is all the community he has. Her holding Rooke's hands recalls putuwa: it declares, loud and clear, that she cares for Rooke.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Rooke thinks of "putuwa," the word that Tagaran taught him. He thinks that it's dusk in New South Wales, and Tagaran is a grown woman with children and possibly grandchildren. He knows that she remembers him, and that she certainly told her children about him. Rooke thinks that she also certainly knows that he kept the notebooks. The notebooks traveled with him to London, then to Africa, and now sit in his dresser drawer. He takes comfort in knowing that when both he and Tagaran are dead, the notebooks will tell the story of their friendship. Rooke had hoped to return to New South Wales, but he never did. He wonders if he would make the same choice again, knowing that he would end up an ill, old man in a hot room.
The fact that Rooke still thinks about Tagaran and is sure that she still thinks about him shows that community and friendship aren't contingent on proximity. Their friendship is recorded forever in the notebooks, and it will live on through the stories that Tagaran passes on to her children. Rooke has finally made peace with the fact that others will possibly misinterpret what they read, but the story now has little power to affect him at all. It's just a story, even if it records a version of the truth.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Storytelling and Truth Theme Icon
On Rooke's last morning in New South Wales, he woke early. It had only been a month since the punitive expedition. Rooke watched the Gorgon, the ship that would take him back to England, sitting in the harbor. He looked at the stars and thought that they'd still be there long after he was gone. The ship left around noon, and Rooke stood at the stern and looked back towards his point. The natives called the point Tarra. Rooke had tried to name it after Dr. Vickery, but the other settlers insisted on naming it after Rooke.
By rejecting the settlers’ decision to name the point after him, Rooke essentially rejects the idea that he deserves recognition for his time in New South Wales, since he thinks of his entire purpose for being there as immoral. The fact that all the settlers reject the native name for the point shows that the racism and erasure of the natives will continue, but hopefully, others like Rooke will continue his fight for kindness and morality in New South Wales.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon
Rooke could see a few natives on the point, including Tagaran. She had come to see him that morning, more subdued than usual. She had gone to the fire, warmed her hands, and sat next to Rooke on his trunk. She took his hands and warmed them, and Rooke closed his eyes. He thought he didn't know whose hands were whose.
For their final goodbye, spoken language simply isn't necessary: nonverbal communication and the action of "putuwa" is enough to convey everything that they don't have the language to speak about.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Rooke and Tagaran looked at each for a moment when the men arrived to carry Rooke's chest down to the ship. Rooke clenched his hands to hold onto the warmth from Tagaran and boarded the ship. As he stood in the stern and watched her disappear, he noticed that she was as far out on the rocks as she could get without being in the water. Rooke smiled at her until he couldn't see her anymore, but he felt as though she would always be a part of him. He thinks that she'll always be like a distant star, light even if he can't see her.
Rooke conceptualizes Tagaran in terms of science and astronomy and conflates that with community: his community is the universe, and she's absolutely a part of it. His mentions of what time it is in New South Wales show that he never stopped thinking about Tagaran. Knowing where she is, and the things that she taught him, namely "putuwa," have guided the entire rest of Rooke's life.
Themes
Language, Communication, and Friendship Theme Icon
Violence and Rationality Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Communality Theme Icon
Imperialism, Racism, and Morality Theme Icon