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The Go-Between was first published in 1953 by the famous novelist, L. P. Hartley and received the Heinemann Foundation Prize of the Royal Society of Literature in 1954, later on, it was made into a successful film (Hartley, 1953).

The novel is fictional with main ideas focusing on memory and the past events that have happened in the main protagonist, Leo Colston’s life. L.P Hartley uses double narrative to portray the memories; the young Leo’s actions told by the older Leo along with describing how the actions affected his life in present time. Taking place in the aristocratic England of the 1900s with the children being the main sufferers of class differences and arrogance. In this essay, I will explore how the types of narrative effect the history, such as, when older Leo is recalling memories and if it may affect the legitimacy of the information explainedIn the opening of the prologue in the novel The Go-Between, the past is already mentioned in the first line; “The past is a foreign country they do things differently there.

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” (Page 5, The Go-Between) Whilst the narrative carries on to speak in the first person; describing to the reader Leo Colston’s childhood and reminiscing about the past, already, the reader has a preconceived idea that the past will play an important role and will most likely have an effect on the history that is recalled. However, we may question the validity of Leo Colston’s memory as he is reciting the story for the first time since being a young boy, which was when the story actually happened. L.P Hartley has set out the narrative as such to emphasise how much of an effect that particular summer had on Leo’s life and how the diary he has found is proving difficult to read, almost foreshadowing the negative impacts that we will read about later on in the novel. Evidence that supports the idea that the history he is remembering has evidently had such an adverse, negative impression, so much so that Leo “did not want to touch it” (Page 5, The Go-Between), ‘it’ being the diary of his fifteen-year-old self. Leo cannot bring himself to pick the diary up straight away, which also allows Hartley to build up suspense as refraining from telling the reader straight away why Leo will not open the diary entices us as readers even more.

Describing the inanimate diary as something almost supernatural and alive, for example; “It seemed to me that every object in the room exhaled the diary’s enervating power,” (Page 6, The Go-Between) connotes unease with the narrative voice, Leo is clearly starting to remember what he has written and as it is making him feel uncomfortable, that feeling is also passed across to the reader. Using the adverb ‘enervating’ to describe a diary gives off the impression that Leo is unstable, feeling as though an inanimate object is draining you also supports the idea that whatever is in that diary has really traumatised him. Finally, when Leo builds up his courage to open the diary, 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, I took 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 comes across as quite cowardly instead. Leo spends a long time describing each of the zodiac signs the diary has depicted “each somehow contriving to suggest a plenitude of life and power, each glorious.” (Page 7, The Go-Between). This allows Leo to feel as if he is a part of a different world, escaping his reality and giving him a glimpse into this godly world he has imagined.

Although Leo has finally opened the diary, we as readers still feel agitated as Hartley is purposefully prolonging the telling of the story that left Leo in such a state. Leo mentions he “remembered the catastrophe well enough, but not the stages that led up to it,” (Page 9, The Go-Between) being careful not to give anything away, he rambles on about his school life and getting bullied all to add to Leo as a character and the ultimate reason as to why he has become so troubled in later life. Not only does this build the character of Leo’s older self but also gives an insight into him as a child, Leo and the reader are almost meeting his former self for the first time as he has not come back to this time in his life since the ‘catastrophe’ happened. As well as character building, Hartley allows the reader an insight into the strange relationship Leo had with his diary as he treats it like a person and a friend.

From getting bullied to cursing the classmates who did pick on him from early on we can see Leo becoming an outsider. Furthermore, we as readers find Leo even more illegitimate and really start to distrust him. The facts he has given become questionable when he specifically highlights that he only remembers parts of the story; “that is how I remember the day – in snatches” (Page 110, The Go-Between). The word ‘snatches’ in itself is a harsh noun, connoting short glimpses, and although Leo has his diary 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 of being a ‘go-between’.Leo’s diary is a symbol of the past, representing the calamity that happened to him that summer in 1900. Diaries are very personal journals and the idea the Leo is allowing us to read it with him immediately builds a trustworthy relationship with him, this is so we subconsciously believe everything he says due to the fact we do not have any other sources, the diary consists of Leo’s dreams idea of worlds he can escape his reality. In the Zodiac on his diary, Leo is Mercury which also means virgin, this foreshadows the lack of sexual relations Leo will not have as he is still a virgin when he is recalling these memories, Mercury, in Greek mythology means ‘messenger of the Gods’, mirroring the idea that Leo was the ‘go-between’ or ‘messenger’ for Mariam and Ted. Incorporating the Zodiac signs gives a sense of surrealism, everything that happens to Leo does not seem real, he grew up empty and broken with no one to give him closure, he has only himself to blame. Hartley’s writing skills let us relive the characters through the eyes of a boy whilst also being aware of the older man, we get to see him find maturity yet still watching him live within a child’s mind of wonder, explaining to us his ideal world only he should know, not understanding the mechanics of adulthood surrounding him, we also get to see the deceitfulness of the characters that the young Leo is blissfully unaware of, and the readers cannot do anything about it. Adventuring through a timeline of the destruction of a young boy through flashbacks, watching his innocence drain away.Writing as though young Leo is there with us gives a sense of immediacy, using pronouns such as ‘I’ and adverbs that are in the present tense support this; “the men of the party were rather self-consciously and 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 allows Hartley to link the different scenarios in young Leo’s life to the struggles that have resulted because of them.

Due to the fact Leo has repeatedly said throughout 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 reader uncomfortable, specifically when Leo talks about how the death of Ted the farmer has prevented him from pursuing any romantic relationships with women for his whole life. A sense of embarrassment is the basis of the history that he is recalling, the naivety of young Leo Coulson, eager to impress is strongly emphasised; “my fantasy of myself as Robin Hood and his sister as Maid Marian” (Page 113 The Go-Between) His obsession with being a hero in his own imaginary world is what leads Leo to be easily manipulated by the two lovers, describing himself as Robin Hood, typically imagined wearing green which connotes innocence. A young impressionable boy who has been thrown into a prominent class divided forbidden love the discovery of sexuality and of the grown-ups world of a teenage boy, the loss of his innocence. Leo is sexually and emotionally scarred by his summer experience. At the end of the book, he has turned into an emotionally hollow adult who “didn’t remember.

.. And didn’t want to” regarding the stories that took place. Chapter nine, specifically the beginning paragraph, helps the plot of The Go-Between intensify as it is the chapter where Leo Coulson and Ted Burgess start to really build a strong relationship, here it makes it more believable when Leo is describing it as we realise that he is recalling it still, Ted has still left an impression on older Leo and making him remember the feelings as an adult creates sympathy from the readers. Here we start to get emotionally invested in this particular friendship as it almost feels as if we are eavesdropping in between two friends.

Hartley has done this to make it more of a shock factor for when Ted commits suicide in a later chapter. The strong uses of rhetorical devices contribute to The Go-Between as a novel, giving it a deeper meaning and pulling at the heartstrings of its readers as well as the small jokes that are developed between the two; “‘No blood on this one,’ he said humorously” (Page 94 The Go-Between). In addition, the constant portrayal of Ted being related to nature throughout the novel symbolises his personality “he was usually working in the harvest Fields,” emphasise how ‘down to earth’ and natural Ted is, as a person he is not artificial. Hartley is trying hard to make the reader like Ted, portraying him mainly as a victim to a capitalist society, foreshadowing what will be the reason he commits suicide; because of his class.

This allows not only Leo to build a strong relationship with Ted but also us as readers develop strong emotions. Conflicting views are prominent when The first time we as readers are introduced to a weapon and when it is mentioned; when Ted is seen “standing with his gun waiting for the rabbits,” (Page 93 The Go-Between) Hartley is made it so the readers notice it before Leo does as it allows us to interpret Leo’s reactions and understand his emotions when he comes to the realisation that that particular weapon ends his close friends life. Moreover, this derisive imagery is followed by an almost ironic reading, Leo describes Ted as being the “colour of corn between red and gold” (Page 92 The Go-Between) this oxymoron between the two colours, ‘red’ connoting danger and anger whilst ‘gold’ connotes richness and is usually used to describe the sun or later on in the chapter a description of “Golden afternoons” (Page 94 The Go-Between). The suggestion that Ted is ‘in-between’ the two colours suggests ambiguity, his life is not simple and will not end easily, blatantly foreshadowing what happens to him.Hartley chose the years in the 1900’s to build up his setting because he wants to highlight the fact that Older Leo believes he is living “in a year of great promise”. The novel is centred with Leo’s youthful disillusionment, which the reader would have expected not to be passed on through history, but however finds Leo’s fantasies to still be prominent in his later life, he is still hanging on to the chances that he, himself, can escape into the world he imagined as a kid.

Leo never had the chance to grow up due to the 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 really stresses the preoccupation Leo’s mind has had and his memories. Moreover, Leo describes “his blood and brains stuck to the kitchen walls,” (Page 246 The Go-Between) this disgusting imagery gives a small insight to how Leo’s emotions are taking over, his way of grieving has mentally broken him to an extent where the idea of Ted cleaning his gun “to shoot himself with was a special torment,” (Page 246 The Go-Between) Immediately changing the whole atmosphere to an uncomfortable one as the reader is able to see what Leo does. The Go-Between incorporates all the essential elements of the articulate novel: love, passion, death and deceit. The nostalgia the readers experience because Leo Coulson allows us to reminisce with him makes us feel as though we were experiencing all the memories and feelings he felt for him.

The constant battle between young Leo and older Leo’s memory helps to grasp not only what happened to him earlier on in life, but also how each experience has affected him. We as readers have almost grown with him in his memory. The history may not be completely truthful as we have only understood one person’s recollection but it has allowed us to evaluate on how the memory does affect the history; making it more personal for the reader.


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