TheGo-Between was first published in 1953 by the famousnovelist, L. P. Hartley and received the Heinemann Foundation Prize of theRoyal Society of Literature in 1954, later on, it was made into a successfulfilm (Hartley, 1953). The novel is fictional with main ideas focusing on memoryand the past events that have happened in the main protagonist, Leo Colston’slife. L.P Hartley uses double narrative to portray the memories; the youngLeo’s actions told by the older Leo along with describing how the actionsaffected his life in present time. In this essay, I will explore how the typesof narrative effect the history, such as, when older Leo is recalling memoriesand if it may affect the legitimacy of the information explainedIn the opening of the prologue in the novel The Go-Between, the past is alreadymentioned in the first line; “The past is a foreign country they do thingsdifferently there.” (Page 5, TheGo-Between) Whilst the narrative carries on to speak in the first person;describing to the reader Leo Colston’s childhood and reminiscing about thepast, already, the reader has a preconceived idea that the past will play animportant role and will most likely have an effect on the history that isrecalled.
However, we may question the validity of Leo Colston’s memory as heis reciting the story for the first time since being a young boy, which waswhen the story actually happened. L.P Hartley has set out the narrative as suchto emphasise how much of an effect that particular summer had on Leo’s life andhow the diary he has found is proving difficult to read, almost foreshadowingthe negative impacts that we will read about later on in the novel. Evidencethat supports the idea that the history he is remembering has evidently hadsuch an adverse, negative impression, so much so that Leo “did not want totouch it” (Page 5, The Go-Between),’it’ being the diary of his fifteen-year-old self. Leo cannot bring himself topick the diary up straight away, which also allows Hartley to build up suspenseas refraining from telling the reader straight away why Leo will not open thediary entices us as readers even more. Describing the inanimate diary assomething almost supernatural and alive, for example; “It seemed to me thatevery object in the room exhaled the diary’s enervating power,” (Page 6, The Go-Between) connotes unease with thenarrative voice, Leo is clearly starting to remember what he has written and asit is making him feel uncomfortable, that feeling is also passed across to thereader. Using the adverb ‘enervating’ to describe a diary gives off theimpression that Leo is unstable, feeling as though an inanimate object isdraining you also supports the idea that whatever is in that diary has reallytraumatised him. Finally, when Leo builds up his courage to open thediary, he does so in a way that is extremely overdramatic; “So I told myself,and with a gesture born of will, as most of my acts were, not inclination, Itook the diary out of the box and opened it.
” (Page 7, The Go-Between) Leo is building himself up to be a brave character,making this task out to be extremely difficult when in reality Leo just comesacross as quite cowardly instead. Leo spends a long time describing each of thezodiac signs the diary has depicted “each somehow contriving to suggest aplenitude of life and power, each glorious.” (Page 7, The Go-Between). This allows Leo to feel as if he is a part of adifferent world, escaping his reality and giving him a glimpse into this godlyworld he has imagined. Although Leo has finally opened the diary, we as readersstill feel agitated as Hartley is purposefully prolonging the telling of thestory that left Leo in such a state. Leo mentions he “remembered thecatastrophe well enough, but not the stages that led up to it,” (Page 9, The Go-Between) being careful not togive anything away, he rambles on about his school life and getting bullied allto add to Leo as a character and the ultimate reason as to why he has become sotroubled in later life. Not only does this build the character of Leo’s olderself but also gives an insight into him as a child, Leo and the reader arealmost meeting his former self for the first time as he has not come back tothis time in his life since the ‘catastrophe’ happened. As well as characterbuilding, Hartley allows the reader an insight into the strange relationshipLeo had with his diary as he treats it like a person and a friend.
From gettingbullied to cursing the classmates who did pick on him from early on we can seeLeo becoming an outsider. Furthermore, we as readers find Leo even moreillegitimate and really start to distrust him. The facts he has given becomequestionable when he specifically highlights that he only remembers parts ofthe story; “that is how I remember the day – in snatches” (Page 110, The Go-Between). The word ‘snatches’ initself is a harsh noun, connoting short glimpses, and although Leo has hisdiary to reference it is easily shown that he is struggling with his memory.Hartley is really trying to stress the adverse effects that were the result ofbeing a ‘go-between’.
Writing as though young Leo is there with us gives asense of immediacy, using pronouns such as ‘I’ and adverbs that are in thepresent tense support this; “the men of the party were rather self-consciouslyand trooped out… I tried to look as though I was passing the door by accident,”The constant flashbacks intertwined with older Leo’s current thoughts allowsHartley to link the different scenarios in young Leo’s life to the strugglesthat have resulted because of them. Due to the fact Leo has repeatedly saidthroughout the novel that he is lonely as well as reading his diary on his own,we as readers feel like we are almost trespassing in on his thoughts and feelings.Leo Coulson opens up about himself to an extent where it makes the readeruncomfortable, specifically when Leo talks about how the death of Ted thefarmer has prevented him from pursuing any romantic relationships with womenfor his whole life. A sense of embarrassment is the basis of the history thathe is recalling, the naivety of young Leo Coulson, eager to impress is stronglyemphasised; “my fantasy of myself as Robin Hood and his sister as Maid Marian”(Page 113 The Go-Between) Hisobsession with being a hero in his own imaginary world is what leads Leo to beeasily manipulated by the two lovers. A young impressionable boy who has beenthrown into a prominent class divided forbidden love the discovery of sexuality and ofthe grown-ups world of a teenage boy, the loss of his innocence.
Leo is sexuallyand emotionally scarred by his summer experience. At the end of the book, hehas turned into an emotionally hollow adult who “didn’t remember… And didn’twant to” regarding the stories that took place. Chapter nine, specifically the beginning paragraph,helps the plot of The Go-Betweenintensify as it is the chapter where Leo Coulson and Ted Burgess start toreally build a strong relationship, here it makes it more believable when Leois describing it as we realise that he is recalling it still, Ted has stillleft an impression on older Leo and making him remember the feelings as anadult creates sympathy from the readers. Here we start to get emotionallyinvested in this particular friendship as it almost feels as if we areeavesdropping in between two friends.
Hartley has done this to make it more ofa shock factor for when Ted commits suicide in a later chapter. The strong usesof rhetorical devices contribute to The Go-Betweenas a novel, giving it a deeper meaning and pulling at the heartstrings of itsreaders as well as the small jokes that are developed between the two; “‘Noblood on this one,’ he said humorously” (Page 94 The Go-Between). In addition, the constant portrayal of Ted beingrelated to nature throughout the novel symbolises his personality “he wasusually working in the harvest Fields,” emphasise how ‘down to earth’ andnatural Ted is, as a person he is not artificial. Hartley is trying hard tomake the reader like Ted, portraying him mainly as a victim to a capitalistsociety, foreshadowing what will be the reason he commits suicide; because ofhis class. This allows not only Leo to build a strong relationship with Ted butalso us as readers develop strong emotions. Conflicting views are prominentwhen The first time we as readers are introduced to a weapon and when it ismentioned; when Ted is seen “standing with his gun waiting for therabbits,” (Page 93 The Go-Between)Hartley is made it so the readers notice it before Leo does as it allows us tointerpret Leo’s reactions and understand his emotions when he comes to therealisation that that particular weapon ends his close friends life. Moreover,this derisive imagery is followed by an almost ironic reading, Leo describesTed as being the “colour of corn between red and gold” (Page 92 The Go-Between) this oxymoron betweenthe two colours, ‘red’ connoting danger and anger whilst ‘gold’ connotesrichness and is usually used to describe the sun or later on in the chapter adescription of “Golden afternoons” (Page 94 TheGo-Between). The suggestion that Ted is ‘in-between’ the two colourssuggests ambiguity, his life is not simple and will not end easily, blatantlyforeshadowing what happens to him.
Hartley chose the years in the 1900’s to build up hissetting because he wants to highlight the fact that Older Leo believes he isliving “in a year of great promise”. The novel is centred with Leo’s youthfuldisillusionment, which the reader would have expected not to be passed onthrough history, but however finds Leo’s fantasies to still be prominent in hislater life, he is still hanging on to the chances that he, himself, can escapeinto the world he imagined as a kid. Leo never had the chance to grow up due tothe ending of Ted’s life, “His fate I did know, and it was for him I grieved.
He haunted me.” (Page 245 The Go-Between)Using the word ‘haunted’ connotes something supernatural, this adjective reallystresses the preoccupation Leo’s mind has had and his memories. Moreover, Leodescribes “his blood and brains stuck to the kitchen walls,” (Page 246 The Go-Between) this disgusting imagerygives a small insight to how Leo’s emotions are taking over, his way ofgrieving has mentally broken him to an extent where the idea of Ted cleaninghis gun “to shoot himself with was a special torment,” (Page 246 The Go-Between) Immediately changing thewhole atmosphere to an uncomfortable one as the reader is able to see what Leodoes.