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Study Guide : The Lieutenant: Symbols and Motifs

Year 12 : The Lieutenant

Symbols and Motifs


The telescope - an instrument used to look at distant objects : represents Rooke's desire for escape from his duties as an officer. At first, the telescope offers Rooke a view into a world beyond his own and creates in him a thirst for knowledge.

Source : Information taken from SASC VCE handout The Lieutenant

Shaving and beards

The ritual of shaving is symbolic of the 'civilised' nature of the British colonisers. 

In literature, beards are often symbolic of tradition, wisdom and leadership, and this suggests that the Aboriginal people have a particular knowedge and a particular skill set that is at odds with the Europeans.

Source: Information taken from SASC VCE handout The Lieutenant


The spear used by the Aboriginal people symbolises both their need to hunt and to protect themselves. The spear is a  protective measure, rather than a tool for direct or front of combat. The spear represents the quietly, cautious, more traditional warfare tactics of the Gadigal people

Source : Information taken from SASC VCE handout THe Lieutenant

HMS Resolution

HMS Resolution, which is part of the sloop in the periphery of the American War of Independence, is symbolic because it is the ship that begins Rooke's journey. Even though the ship in the novel is named after a real historical ship, the name is symbolic -  a resolution is a firm decision to do or not to do something - and this is what Rooke does in the end.


Source : Information taken from SASC VCE handout The Lieutenant

Rose Hill

Rose Hill - the plot of land is 'discovered' to be suitable, fertile ground - is symbolic of the views of the colonisers. 

Source : information taken from SASC VCE handout The Lieutenant

Red Coats

Readcoats is an historical term used to refer to the soldiers of the British Royal Services. The Redcoats symbolise the patriotic pride of the British colonisers. 

Source : Information taken from SASC VCE handout The Lieutenant

The Musket

The musket is symbolic of European power and viloence. Much of the power of the British Empire revolved around the musket and the intimidation and force that it brought about the aboriginal population. Rooke views the gun as a symbol of his power and advantage over the Aboriginal people.

Source : Information taken from SASC VCE handout The Lieutenant

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