“The Go Between”, written by LP Hartley, is a tragic period novel which takes place in Norfolk in the hot summer of 1900. The main character, Leo, now old, tells his story through a flashback, which takes most of the novel. I was particularly attracted to the feeling of relentlessness that is all pervasive in the novel as the story unfolds and develops. The theme of loss of innocence is explored and, through the various techniques used, Hartley ensnares us in the world of Brandham Hall.
The novel is made up of three parts: a prologue; the main part of the text, written as a flashback in the past tense and using first person narrative; and an epilogue which brings the reader up to date with life at Brandham Hall as the book closes. Leo, a damaged old man finds a diary which unlocks suppressed memories of the summer he spent in Norfolk, staying with the Maudsley family. While there, the naive young boy becomes infatuated with the daughter of the house, Marian, and, unwittingly, gets embroiled in the clandestine affair she is having with Ted Burgess, a tenant farmer on the estate. This eventually leads to Leo's loss of innocence and corruption, but also to the tragic end of Ted who shoots himself.
The author uses many techniques to explore the theme of the loss of innocence of the main protagonist, Leo. He first highlights the naivety of the young boy by the use of symbolism. Leo is presented to us as fascinated by the Zodiac and all magic. He compares the people of B.H. with figures in the Zodiac:
You insisted on thinking of them as angels, even if they were fallen angels. They belonged to your zodiac.
The word choice here highlights both the young boy’s naivety, that he should be so easily impressed by those at Brandham Hall, and his childish fascination with magic in the form of the zodiac. Hartley gives us the image of a very vulnerable young man as he begins his holiday in a world which is totally foreign to him.
The colour green is another...
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