The Lieutenant


Kate Grenville

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Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Lieutenant, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Language, Communication, and Friendship

The Lieutenant tells the story of Lieutenant Daniel Rooke, who volunteers to go with the First Fleet to the British colony of New South Wales. The First Fleet is tasked with establishing a penal colony and making friendly contact with the native Aboriginal people of Australia. When a small group of Aboriginal people begins to visit Rooke at his observatory, Rooke begins to learn their language, Cadigal, and teaches the Aboriginal people English. As…

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Violence and Rationality

As an astronomer, Rooke has a naturally scientific mind. He finds comfort in identifying patterns and making rational connections. Though this is a natural proclivity, the book links his love of science with violence, since he escapes into science and math when other students bully him at school. Furthermore, as an adult, Rooke joins the marines with the hope of continuing his scientific pursuits, but he soon finds that the British imperial machine is a…

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Individuality vs. Communality

As a child, Rooke feels alone and misunderstood--an individual in the worst sense of the word. However, as he begins to amass the language he needs to understand math, science, and music, he begins to shift his attention from his own loneliness to his potential to play a role in the wider world. By thinking of himself as a part of a greater whole, Rooke explores what exactly an individual's role is in a community…

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Imperialism, Racism, and Morality

Even as a child, Rooke's moral compass is highly developed. While in school, he is troubled by a classmate's assertion that the British Empire would crumble without slavery. Even though he's never met a black person at that point, he still understands that dehumanizing people because of the color of their skin is morally wrong. As Rooke matures and witnesses firsthand both slavery in the Caribbean and the racist attitudes of his fellow soldiers in…

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Storytelling and Truth

For the first few years of Rooke's friendship with Lieutenant Silk, Rooke creates a binary system to think about the relationship between storytelling and truth. He positions himself as a man of science; that is, he records undeniable, unquestionable, rational truth. Silk, on the other hand, is a storyteller. Though Rooke recognizes that the stories Silk tells contains nuggets of truth, he also believes that Silk is far more interested in crafting a compelling…

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