The Lieutenant

Table of Contents

    • Science and Language
    • Duty
    • Colonialism
    • Ambition
  • Essay 1 : “Through his experiences in NSW, Rooke changes his view of the world and his place in it.” Discuss.
  • Essay 2 : The Lieutenant argues shows the importance of staying true to one’s own values, no matter what the cost. Discuss.
  • Essay 3 : How is language presented in The Lieutenant?
  • Essay 4 : “They may be savages, we call them savages. But their feelings are no different from ours.” Discuss the role of empathy in The Lieutenant.
  • Essay 5: Discuss different approaches to the new, strange or unfamiliar in The Lieutenant.
  • Essay 6 : The Lieutenant pits loyalty to a corrupt regime against loyalty to one’s own moral code. Discuss.
  • Essay 7 : Discuss the portrayal of Aboriginal characters in The Lieutenant.
  • Essay 8 : ‘In The Lieutenant, the tensions and struggles within the colony arise from fear.’ Discuss.
  • Essay 9 : Discuss the role of the minor characters in The Lieutenant.
  • Essay 10 : How important are relationships in the formation of Rooke’s character?


Kate Grenville’s The Lieutenant is a work of historical fiction set in Australia in the eighteenth century. It depicts a fictionalised account of the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove. It follows the life and career of Lieutenant Daniel Rooke, a brilliant mathematician and astronomer who rises from humble beginnings to the rank of navigator on the Sirius. A shy and socially awkward, reclusive young man, he does his best to distance himself from the main business of building the penal settlement and instead perches on a cliff top taking measurements of the stars, and attempting to spot a comet which the Astronomer Royal has predicted should be appearing over the southern hemisphere.

Rooke fails to spot the comet, but he does enter into a friendship with a young girl of the Cadigal people of New South Wales, Tagaran. He becomes devoted to the language of the Cadigal, and immerses himself in his conversations with the girl. He attempts, at first, to be as rigorously scientific as he is in all things when he sets about studying the language. However, one of the most important elements of the novel is Rooke’s discovery that to truly talk with and understand someone is to be “on the same side of the mirror of language,” to enter into something more natural than tables of syntax. The message is that for the Europeans to understand the Cadigal people, they must immerse themselves in the world of the Cadigal, rather than treat them as scientific specimens to be broken down into neat columns and figures.

A key theme in the novel is the tension between Rooke’s individualist detachment from earthly affairs and the duty which binds him to the settlement. After a settler is speared by an Aborigine, Rooke’s friend Lieutenant Silk calls upon him to assist in a punitive expedition to capture a number of Aborigines. Rooke sabotages the mission by warning Tagaran of the intentions of British soldiers the night beforehand. Much to the relief of both Lieutenants, the mission is unsuccessful. However, after learning from Silk that a secondary objective had been to kill and mutilate several Aborigines, Rooke returns to the settlement, condemns his superiors, and resigns. We learn in an epilogue that he was punished lightly back in London and spent the remainder of his life fighting for the abolition of slavery in Antigua.

Daniel Rooke is based on the real-life William Dawes, who, like Rooke, studied the Indigenous language of the area around Sydney, befriended a native girl, and refused to go on a punitive expedition against an Indigenous settlement. He was stripped of his office and spent the remainder of his life campaigning for the abolition of slavery. Grenville draws directly from his notebooks in The Lieutenant. The character she creates depicts, in its own way, a potential alternative history of Australia, one in which the European settlers respect and attempt to integrate themselves into Indigenous culture. The novel is inspiring in its depiction of two humans sharing a humanity across cultures, but implicitly tragic in the understanding that this was ultimately not the outcome of the colonisation of Australia.

The Lieutenant was widely praised, and further cemented Kate Grenville’s status as one of the most respected writers in Australia today.


  • “He had no memories other than of being an outsider.” (3)Rooke is immediately established by Grenville as an “outsider,” someone who is set apart from the world and from his time. Although his sense of otherness often causes Rooke misery, it also allows him to step outside of the conventions of his time, and question the moral codes his society lives by.
  • “Rooke learned at last that true cleverness was to hide such thoughts.” (7)Rooke becomes adept at “hiding’ his thoughts, which becomes integral to bargaining with the governor for an observatory, and ultimately enables him to employ the duplicity necessary to warn the Cadigal of the impending attack.
  • “[Rooke] loved the way the slippery mysteries of language could be reduced to units as reliable and interchangeable as numbers.”The ability to reduce language to a mathematical puzzle allows Rooke to penetrate new languages well. However, his encounter with Tagaran changes his understanding of language and challenges the notion that it can really be reduced to charts and figures.
  • “They were not the same as a horse or a gold watch.” (26)Rooke’s early encounter with slaves at Antigua informs his later perspective on the Aborigines of Sydney Cove, and he displays a radical empathy which many of his fellows lack.
  • “…under the benign surface of life in His Majesty’s service, under its rituals and its uniforms and pleasantries, was horror.” (29)The image of the hanging man haunts Rooke, and serves as a reminder of a truth which becomes a major plot point: that as much as he and Silke might intellectualise or romanticise life in the Marines, they are ultimately part of a brutal war machine.
  • Himself. It was as unexplored a land as this one.” (78)Rooke’s time in Australia will make him, but not in the way he predicts; the “self” which Rooke eventually uncovers is not interested in career advancement if it involves compromising his moral values.
  • “A place so strange took a layer of skin off a man and left him peeled.” (96)Rooke’s memorable metaphor is meant, in the immediate sense, to capture the unsettling feeling of being in an unfamiliar location. For Rooke, however, it also foreshadows the significant change which will occur to him as he leaves a skin -his duty to the Marines – behind him.
  • “They may be savages, we call them savages. But their feelings are no different from ours.” (111)Lieutenant Gardiner presents Rooke with a case that foreshadows his own later inner turmoil. Gardiner is forced to choose between is duty and his conscience, and is visibly shaken by taking part in the abduction.
  • “Silk’s impulse was to make the strange familiar, to transform it into well-shaped smooth phrases. His own was to enter that strangeness and lose himself in it.” (139)The dichotomy Rooke envisages between himself and Silk is of immense symbolic significance as it is a notion he returns to in his friendship with Tagaran. He comes to realise that engaging with difference requires foregoing neat, British methods of categorising and labelling otherness.
  • “He knew that strangeness was commonplace when you inhabited it.” (153)Part of what makes Rooke more capable of engaging with the Cadigal than many of his fellow British is the fact that the social world of his own country was always strange and unfathomable to him.
  • “Beside each entry were the spaces that would be filled, word by systematic word, with the unknown tongue.” (155)Rooke’s initial urge is to try to categorise and record the language as he does his readings from his astronomical instruments. This technique may be sufficient for lifeless data, but he soon finds that a living language will require a much more organic approach.
  • “Rank: in a remote way he knew it mattered, but now it seemed bloodless and irrelevant.” (168)Rooke is transforming from the upwardly mobile young lieutenant into someone for whom material success is nothing like as significant as discovering difference, and acting according to moral principles.
  • “There was too much to lose, and not just the glory of being the first to speak the native tongue.” (183)Rooke realises that the relationship he is forging with the Cadigal is a tenuous one, and understands that any misunderstanding between the Cadigal and the British has the potential to be disastrous.
  • “When those fine abstractions fell away, all that remained was cruelty.” (198)Rooke is acutely aware that his society, quick to dismiss others as savage or barbarous, is itself an art form in justifying acts of brutality and cruelty.
  • “You did not learn a language without entering into a relationship with the people who spoke it to you.” (233)The inability of Silk or the Governor to understand and communicate with the Cadigal people is a result of their reluctance to “enter into a relationship” with those people; they see the Cadigal as useful objects, as fuel for Silk’s story or as aids in setting up a colony.
  • “They none of them can be trusted.” (241)Willstead’s unthinking resentment of the Indigenous population is an indication of how unique Rooke’s friendship with Tagaran is.
  • “…the service of humanity and the service of His Majesty were not congruent.” (249)Rooke finds his principles being pushed to the limit, bluntly reflecting on the fact that there is nothing grand or noble about serving in the British army.
  • “If you were part of that machine, you were part of its evil.” (280)Rooke’s realisation, latent but present in him all along, is that it is not enough simply to attempt to be the least harmful part of a harmful machine; only if he totally separated himself from it could he be absolved of responsibility.


The Lieutenant is a work of historical fiction. This means that it takes real historical events, periods, places and to an extent characters and reimagines them. Historical fiction aims to accurately depict its era. The Lieutenant faithfully recounts elements of colonial, military and naval life, and aims to depict attitudes and languages as they would have been in the 18th Century. Thus, the characters frequently speak in slightly archaic language, most evident in formalities and polite language (Lieutenant Silk, for example, uses the polite phrase “at your service”). Similarly, the white characters tend to describe the Aboriginal characters as “savages” and “natives.” However, the work is primarily one of fiction. In this sense the word “fiction” in the phrase “historical fiction” is the most pertinent. Kate Grenville is not attempting to write an objective and factual account of history, and the fact that she renames Daniel Rooke (based off the real-life William Dawes) and her other characters is a sign that the book must be interpreted first and foremost as a fictive novel.

Structurally, the novel is divided into four sections, presenting four windows into the life of its protagonist, Daniel Rooke. The first begins in the early childhood of Rooke, and the last carries itself into his very final days. This means that despite being a relatively short novel, The Lieutenant can adequately cover an entire lifetime and leave the reader with the sense of having experienced the entire, complex and disorderly life of its protagonist.

In line with its status as a work of historical fiction, The Lieutenant relies on detailed language and description of naval life and of life in the colonies. Much space in the novel is devoted to discussions of astronomical detail and the mechanisms of muskets, for example. This helps build a realist style, attempting to create an accurate and believable description of the early days of the Australian colonies. There are also elements of social realism in the novel. The depiction of the slaves in Antigua, for example, and the account of Rooke’s early life being dominated by considerations of class, are some of the more unsavoury but necessary details of the time period in which the novel is set.

The story is told from a limited third-person perspective. This means that it is written in the third person (He/She/They/It) and is limited to the experiences of Daniel Rooke. This is essential for a variety of reasons. One is that it means that the plot can be structured in such a way as to limit the amount of information the reader can have at any one time. For example, because the novel is depicted from the perspective of Rooke and not Silk, the sequence of the punitive expedition is tenser and more suspenseful – culminating in the shocking discovery of the hatchet and the sack. It also means that the vision of 18th Century life presented to the reader is one dichotomised between glorious, breathtaking scientific achievements on one hand, and the brutal “horror” and “cruelty” of the British Empire on the other. As a lower-middle class mathematician serving in the Marines, Rooke is uniquely placed to present the central paradox of progress and barbarism at the heart of the British colonial endeavour.

Despite its realist style, The Lieutenant still provides Grenville with plenty of opportunities to showcase her ability to write figuratively. There are frequent examples of vivid imagery and metaphor, for example when Rooke reflects on the fundamental strangeness of the landscape he has found himself in: “A place so strange took a layer of skin off a man and left him peeled.” There are also a number of symbols in the novel. One is the musket which lives in Rooke’s observatory. The musket symbolises violence, and particularly the violence underpinning the British imperial machine. When Rooke holds it to his shoulder to give a salute on arrival at Sydney Cove, he feels “a moment’s nausea.” The symbol of the gun is returned to time and again. Tagaran confides that it is the presence of the “guns” which have made the Aborigines unsettled and angry. The symbolism of the musket as a fundamentally divisive and violent object comes to the fore again when it becomes the centre of a dispute between Rooke and Tagaran. The musket is juxtaposed against the other objects in the observatory, the ground-breaking scientific instruments such as the sextant which symbolise the best of European industrial, scientific society, up against the very worst elements of that society (the musket).


Science and Language

Daniel Rooke is a man driven by a desire for knowledge. From a tender age he develops an obsession with what he terms his “special numbers” – prime numbers – and so far outstrips his fellow pupils in mathematics that he is noticed and eventually sent to study under the Astronomer Royal. For Rooke, a deeply nervous and socially awkward character, depicted by Grenville as possibly having a high-functioning personality disorder and “deeply out of step with the world,” the endless, orderly beauty of mathematics is a way of understanding the universe, and penetrating its mysteries. To engage in the intricacies of mathematics “was to feel the action of God in oneself.” This desire to discover the inner mechanisms of the universe drives him to travel to Australia. For Rooke, a rigorous scientific interrogation of the world is the result of his own uncertainty and insecurity about his own identity: “Himself. It was as unexplored a land as this one.” Categorising the world neatly acts as a substitute for fully understanding his own place in it.

This scientific curiosity manifests itself in his commitment to learning the language of the Cadigal. He attempts it systematically, in charts and grammatical groupings, and takes a pleasure in the notion of language as a “machine,” a beautifully intricate, ordered and predictable mechanism. However, the novel charts his growing disillusionment with this notion. After he upsets Tagaran, he comes to doubt the validity of his entire project: “What had felt like science was the worst kind of guesswork, the kind that forgets it is a guess.” He realises that “you did not learn a language without entering into a relationship with the people who spoke it with you.” This insight highlights a core concern of the novel. In the nineteenth century, Australian colonial attitudes towards Aborigines were underpinned by racist pseudo-scientific racial theories, which falsely categorised different races and constructed a hierarchy out of them. Rooke’s attempt to understand the language of the people of Sydney is initially very similar. He thinks in terms of rigid absolutes, and assumes that his immediate impressions of the Cadigal language, based off the grammar of English, Greek and Latin, must be correct. He learns, however, that cultures and languages cannot really be understood by neatly compartmentalising them, but must instead be entered into and engaged with respectfully, and on their own terms. This is the skill which Rooke possesses but Silk lacks; Silk sees language as something which can be deftly employed to make sense of the world, whereas Rooke learns that the key to communicating with Tagaran is not to focus on what is familiar in her language, but to embrace the difference it presents.


Daniel Rooke finds himself in an institution bound by strict codes of duty and honour, underpinned by a sense of loyalty to Britain and the crown. It is not a loyalty that Rooke actually possesses, however – it is Rooke’s curiosity, primarily, which drives him to sail with the First Fleet to Sydney Cove. Thus, there is an immediate possibility of a conflict between loyalty and Rooke’s ethics.

The cost of disobedience in the British war machine is made clear early in the novel. Rooke watches as a soldier is hanged for plotting a mutiny. He realises the precariousness of his position: “A man was obliged to become part of the mighty imperial machine. To refuse was to become… either a bag of meat or a walking dead man.” The soldiers in His Majesty’s army are not people but cogs in this “imperial machine;” Grenville very carefully uses the word “machine” to imply a contrast between the “inhuman” and mechanised life of the navy against the natural and more potent relationship which Rooke forms with Tagaran. The scientific principles which he attempts to apply to decoding Tagaran’s language are the same principles which underpin the British imperialist system. At a flogging of a convict, the Aborigines present are appalled, and Rooke find himself incapable of justifying the hideous cruelty of the punishment. He can intellectualise it, in the same way that the Governor can intellectualise the cruelty of kidnapping or murdering Aborigines in order to encourage the others to stay away and theoretically save more lives, but he knows in his heart that the sheer hideous fact of these actions is indefensible. Rooke’s struggle to reconcile his duty with his moral principles culminates in his resignation following the punitive expedition against the Cadigal people. He devotes the rest of his life to fighting for the freedom of slaves throughout the British Empire, as the real-life William Dawes did also. Central to The Lieutenant is the question of moral duty as opposed to civic or military duty. Rooke decides that he must leave the British army, because to be part of the system, even if not actively, is to be a part “of its evil.” The novel argues that for those who live in times of injustice and brutality, staying silent is not an option; to do nothing is to be complicit. Ultimately The Lieutenant argues that it is our moral duties which we should be most true to.


The Lieutenant deals with the beginning of a fraught history in Australia. The arrival of the First Fleet heralded the beginning of modern Australia, and the often violent settlement of the continent by the British Empire. Grenville approaches the potentially incendiary subject matter delicately, presenting a turning point in relations between Indigenous Australians and British settlers. By the end of the novel, there are two, stark approaches on display: Rooke’s or Governor Gilbert’s.

Central to the depiction of Australia in the novel is the concept of “newness” or “strangeness,” and how it is approached. Australia is so strange and unnerving to the Europeans that it leaves men like Rooke feeling “peeled” and exposed. The British are of course equally strange to the Indigenous population. Many – but not all – of the Indigenous people Rooke encounters have at least some interest in European habits and – in the case of Tagaran – language. The British commanders have an interest in the Aborigines, but only in a superficial sense. Their interest in language and custom extends only so far as necessary to take land from the Cadigal. This is evidenced by the empty settlement which Gilbert, Rooke and Silk approach. Despite clear evidence of occupation, the Governor does not hesitate to claim the area, as it would “reward cultivation.” That is, the value of the land can only be appreciated in the extent to which it can be altered and forced into a British agricultural system.

Another approach to the “strangeness” of Australia is Rooke’s. Whereas “Silk’s impulse was to make the strange familiar, to transform it into well-shaped smooth phrases,” Rooke’s “was to enter that strangeness and lose himself in it.” Rooke sets about attempting to learn the language of the people he encounters, and understands that such a task cannot be attempted remotely, or at arm’s length from those people: “You did not learn a language without entering into a relationship with the people who spoke it to you.” The impulses of Silk, to make things familiar, and of Gilbert, which is to simply ignore the strangeness and build a miniature version of Britain in its place, are set against Rooke. This is largely because of his character; he is a man with “no memories other than of being an outsider,” someone who struggles to penetrate his own world and therefore is in a better position to understand another.

Rooke represents the irreconcilable natures of these two approaches. His competing urges – to “enter the strangeness” and to fulfil his duty to the Crown – cannot reach compromise. This is clear after the punitive expedition against the Aboriginal settlement. Although he and Silk did what they could in order to avoid it being a success, their attempts to manipulate the system cannot absolve them of responsibility for its actions. As Rooke puts it, “the service of humanity and the service of His Majesty were not congruent.” Grenville implicitly argues that if Britain in this period had been run by people who think like Rooke rather than like Silk or Gilbert, the history of British and Indigenous Australian interaction would have been unrecognisably different.


The British war machine is driven, fundamentally, by ambition. When Rooke sailed as a marine on the Resolution, the toast amongst ambitious lieutenants was “to war, and a sickly season!” The casually jovial attitude towards death as an opening for promotion takes on a darker tone after Rooke first watches another lieutenant as he is hanged for mutiny, and then is nearly killed himself in a naval engagement. The imperial machine is driven to a large extent by people who are prepared to put moral scruples aside in order to gain authority, power and rank – a necessity in the strictly hierarchical society of 18th Century Britain. Silk is perhaps the quintessential example of such a man. Not because he is unscrupulous; in fact, he is probably one of the more moral of the lieutenants depicted in the novel. Rather, he is a good example because he wrestles with his conscious but always finds a way to privilege social mobility. Rooke notices this almost immediately in Silk’s attitude towards warfare: “War was no more than an opportunity on the way to the creation of Captain Silk.” For a while, Rooke is just as ambitious as Silk, and for the first few months in Sydney Cove has rank at the fore of his mind.

Rooke’s attitude towards rank changes over the course of the novel. One of his first, major moments of disillusionment occurs when he watches a would-be mutineer being hanged. Rooke is reminded that what he is approaching as part of a great social game is in fact underpinned by violence: “under the benign surface of life in His Majesty’s service, under its rituals and its uniforms and pleasantries, was horror.” Consequently, once he begins working on understanding the language of the Cadigal people, he very easily loses interest in being a part of this “horror.” When Silk is offered a potential promotion, Rooke reflects: “Rank: in a remote way he knew it mattered, but now it seemed bloodless and irrelevant.”

The second major moment of disillusionment comes when he is forced to watch a convict be flogged in the Sydney settlement. The bodily trauma inflicted on the man almost stuns Rooke, and forces a reappraisal of the world he operates in. He concludes that to be part of this system is to be essentially to be the same as the man who “wielded the whip.” When Silk brings him on the punitive expedition against the Aborigines, the conflict between morality and ambition collide, in both of them. Silk can convince himself that so long as they fail, and no harm is brought to the Aborigines, then it is morally justifiable. Rooke cannot bring himself to agree, and eventually quits the service of His Majesty and dedicates the remainder of his life to abolishing slavery.


Lieutenant Daniel Rooke

Daniel Rooke is born into a lower-middle class family. Although a shy, reserved child initially considered “stupid” at school, his astonishing propensity for mathematics attracts attention and he is sent to Portsmouth Naval Academy. He initially hates the academy, which “sucked out his soul,” until he is picked by the chaplain as an excellent music student. He has an intense love for the beauty of mathematics – which informs his devotion to music – and his incredible talent is soon noticed by the authorities, until he eventually finds himself studying under Dr Vickery, the Astronomer Royale. He eventually trains as a naval lieutenant and finds himself as navigator for the First Fleet.

Rooke is consistently presented as socially awkward, to an almost crippling extent. His sense of alienation, combined with his odd ability to connect with children, transpire to be elements of his sensitive and caring nature; he lives outside of his own time, to an extent. His intense connection to his sister Anne and to Tagaran suggest a sympathy for the innocence of childhood. He is unable to justify to himself the role of slavery in the British Empire – a knee-jerk reaction against cruelty which the young Aborigines he acquaints himself with share. This clear-eyed innocence also leads him to feel disgust at the punitive expedition sent against the Cadigal. His attitude towards cruelty and injustice is a thinly veiled message to people and societies the world over: “If you were part of that machine, you were part of its evil.” He resigns and eventually dedicates himself to freeing slaves in the Empire.


Tagaran is a young Cadigal girl who quickly befriends Rooke. It is through her that he becomes acquainted, to an extent with her character. She is energetic, bossy, and usually much smarter than she appears at any given time – essentially, she is like any ten to eleven year-old girl, and indeed she reminds Rooke strongly of his younger sister. Tagaran is interested in the brave new world brought to her shores by the Europeans, and she calls Rooke ‘kamara’ – seemingly, “friend.” However, she is very far from naïve. She feigns casual curiosity in Rooke’s musket in order to learn its secrets – and can tell when he is not being entirely straight with her. The combination of her need to communicate bluntly across the language barrier and the simplicity of her childish language makes her answer to Rooke’s question as to why Brugden was attacked devastatingly insightful; quite simply, her people are angry because the whites have turned up and overstayed their welcome.

Tagaran and Rooke, despite her anger with him for not teaching her how the gun works, ultimately part on good terms after he warns her of the impending attack on her settlement. Their relationship stands as a sort of possible alternative history of the colonisation of Australia, an example of the mutually caring and reciprocal relationship which different cultures can potentially create.

Talbot Silke

Lieutenant Silke is, ostensibly, the polar opposite of Rooke. He is talkative, confident, and extraordinarily eloquent and loquacious. This is perhaps why his attempts to grasp the Cadigal language is less successful than Rooke’s; he sees this other language as a novelty, something for him to translate into his own language and turn into source material for his account of the new continent.

Silke, like Rooke, initially, is a careerist. Also like Rooke, he clearly possesses a moral conscience of a sort; he convinces himself that it is acceptable to launch a brutal attack against the Cadigal because he is confident that it will fail, and he certainly does as little as is feasible to ensure success once they arrive at the empty settlement. The difference is that it is strongly implied, largely by the presence of the hatchets for decapitating captives, that Silke would ultimately follow his orders if push came to shove, in order to save his own skin. His capacity for language is eventually seen as a sort of sophistry; an ability to justify, as much to himself as to anyone else, that he is definitely doing the right thing. This cynicism is one of the traits he possesses which occasionally puts strain on his friendship with Rooke; for example, he is largely incapable of understanding the manner of relationship which Rooke might have with a native girl, and assumes that it must be sexual. Perhaps he is ultimately a vision of what Rooke would be with only a slightly smaller conscience; an image of what Rooke almost becomes.

Lieutenant Gardiner

Lieutenant Gardiner is another character who represents a sort of possible future for Rooke. He is kindly and generous, and seemingly incapable of serious bitterness. He has a strong sense of honour and a devotion to duty – however, like Silk and Rooke, he struggles at times to reconcile that sense of duty with his disgust at some of the things he is called upon to do. When he is ordered to help kidnap two Aborigines, Warungin and Boinbar, he fulfils his obligations but then visits Rooke to discuss it, clearly disturbed. He cries that he “wish[es] to God” that he had disobeyed the governor, and shows a striking sense of empathy so clearly lacking from much of the colonial mission when he emphasises the common humanity shared by whites and Aborigines, and thinks of the terror and pain he must have inflicted on the two men. Gardiner is a potent example of a fundamentally good man caught up in a fundamentally inhumane imperial machine.


Like all of the Aboriginal characters, Warungin is difficult to fathom because he is only really described through the often perplexed perception of Daniel Rooke. He is one of the two Aborigines kidnapped on the Governor’s orders. In contrast to Boinbar, Warungin appears largely indifferent to the Europeans and their trinkets when he is shown around the settlement. He does, however, become interested in Rooke and frequently visits him. After the failed expedition against the Cadigal, he comes and interacts happily with the soldiers, bringing them fish to eat. There a number of possible reasons for this; perhaps he means to mock them, or perhaps it is strategic, and intended to protect Rooke by making it seem like his people had no knowledge of the intentions of the expeditionary force.


Brugden is a convict. Like Rooke, he has certain attributes and skills which grant him liberties and tasks outside of his station. He is an excellent gamekeeper, and so is tasked with hunting food for the settlement.

There is a constant air of menace around Brugden, a powerful, brooding type who seems to have a proclivity for violence. He embroils himself in a violent dispute with Aborigines early in the book, for reasons for which he unconvincingly argues he is blameless, and is ultimately killed by an Aboriginal spear, sparking the expedition which culminates in Rooke’s moral epiphany.

Essay 1 : “Through his experiences in NSW, Rooke changes his view of the world and his place in it.” Discuss.

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