Guns are a symbol of power and destruction in The Lieutenant. Although Rooke finds guns to be satisfying examples of physics at work, he soon learns what guns can do to human bodies. The violence he sees in his first battle (in the American Revolutionary War) is horrific, and follows him for the rest of his life—though rather than disengage from the military, Rooke simply tries to never put himself in situations where he might have to use his gun. Rooke in turn applies this manner of thinking to his involvement in the military as a whole. By considering both the military and guns as simple machines—potentially harmless if handled right—Rooke ignores his own complicity in the violence that the military (and its guns) promotes. In this way, guns represent Rooke's uneasy relationship with violence, and his own conflicted feelings about his involvement in the military.
Guns Quotes in The Lieutenant
The firing, the reloading, the ramming, the priming, the firing again: all that was familiar from having been practiced so often. The theory of it was tidy: men firing and then calmly dropping to one knee to reload. What was happening on Resolution bore no resemblance to that.
Gamekeeper! The word suggested the society that Lancelot Percival James had boasted of at the Academy: pheasants and deer in a park artfully planted to enhance the prospect, cheerful peasantry tipping their caps to the squires riding by.
But New South Wales was no gentleman's estate...and the gamekeeper was a criminal who had been given a gun.
They all knew what he had turned his face away from: like it or not, he was Berewalgal. He wore the red coat. He carried the musket when he was told to. He stood by while a man was flogged. He would not confront a white man who had beaten his friends.
But to shoot a piece of metal out of it that could penetrate a shield or a human body and expose the shambles within: that was of another order of experience. Another language. What it said was, I can kill you.
He did not want her to learn that language. Certainly not from him.
It was the simplest thing in the world. If an action was wrong, it did not matter whether it succeeded or not, or how many clever steps you took to make sure it failed. If you were part of such an act, you were part of its wrong. You did not have to take up the hatchet or even to walk along with the expedition.