The Go-Between

by

L. P. Hartley

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The Go-Between: Chapter 10  Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Leo is bitterly disappointed at the message he’s read. It had never crossed his mind that Marian and Ted were in love. He would never have expected “Marian the Virgin of the Zodiac” to “sink so low” as to be “soft” and “soppy.” Leo thrusts the letter deep into the envelope and seals it, “to cover [Marian’s] shame.” With the above in mind, he resolves that it is still his duty to deliver the letter.
Suddenly Leo’s zodiac scheme is disrupted—Marian is not the virginal figure that she seemed. Hartley definitely implies a biblical “fall” from grace, hence Leo’s desire to cover Marian’s shame by putting the letter in his pocket. Yet Leo still feels duty bound as the go-between to deliver the letter.
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As Leo heads towards the farm, he notices how the sun has dried out the land and made the water shallower. The strength of the sun softens his attitude towards Marian. “Spooning” no longer seems the “most damaging activity that a human being could engage in” and he realizes it must have something to do with “the helplessness of Nature.”
Leo tries to fit his new knowledge of Marian’s “shameful” activity into his worldview, piecing it together with his earlier thoughts about the essentialist nature of life. Marian can’t help spooning—it’s just her acting in her nature. That’s only a mild consolation to Leo, though.
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Leo arrives at the farm, where Ted greets him with a “half mocking, half playful” salute. Leo hands Ted the letter before informing him that he will no longer be able to bring letters because of Marcus’s recovery. Leo hasn’t told Marian yet, and Ted says, “she won’t know what to do, you see, no more shall I.” Leo asks what they did before they had him to take the letters; Ted laughs and just says, “it wasn’t so easy then.”
Ted is confronted with the possibility of having his easy access to Marian taken away. The reader learns that their relationship is not new and predates Leo’s arrival at Brandham Hall. Leo, still loyal to Marian, is under psychological pressure not to upset her—his new place in the world depends on her approval.
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Ted asks Leo whether he would want Marian to stop liking him (Leo). When Leo says no, Ted asks him where Leo would “feel it” if she did. Leo, “half hypnotized,” puts his hand on his heart, to which Ted responds, “So you have a heart.” He warns Leo that Marian won’t be the same if Leo doesn’t take the letters. Ted says she’ll cry; it’s not that hard to make her cry, and that she had cried previously when she couldn’t see him. “Do you want her to cry?” asks Ted. He thinks Leo considers him just a “rough chap.”
Ted guilt trips Leo about Marian, casting a kind of spell over him. The hand on heart gesture shows that not only is the relationship a “matter of the heart,” but also an issue of life and death. Leo, still loyal to Marian, won’t want to be the cause of her sadness. Ted’s claim to be a rough chap is in part an attempt to excuse his behavior, but is also a quiet threat of masculine power.
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The thought of Marian crying brings tears to Leo’s eyes and he is trembling, troubled by Ted’s “vehemence.” Ted invites him into the house out of the sun. Leo tries to change the subject, telling Ted that he had expected to find him in the field earlier. Ted informs Leo that he came back to look after Smiler the horse, who is going to have a foal.
Ted tries to soften Leo by inviting him in; he’s aware that Leo’s loyalties are delicately poised. The foal returns the conversation to nature. The name “Smiler” chimes ironically with the fact that Leo is crying.
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Leo asks why Smiler is having a foal, and Ted says, “it’s Nature.” He tells Leo “between you and me … she did a bit of spooning.” The word strikes Leo “like a blow.” Leo didn’t realize animals could “spoon”—he didn’t think they were “silly” enough for that. Ted tells him that he won’t think spooning is so “silly” when he’s older.
This is further evidence that Leo is truly confused about what spooning is. Ted acts as a role model for Leo, dispensing cryptic wisdom about what Leo will think when he’s older. This antagonizes Leo’s feeling of having a new identity, though.
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Leo asks Ted questions about marriage and “spooning.” If you spoon someone, he asks, does that generally mean you will get married? “Generally,” replies Ted. “Could you spoon with someone without marrying them?” asks Leo. “Yes, I suppose so,” says Ted. Leo asks about marriage coming before “spooning,” which Ted thinks wouldn’t be “a very lover-like thing to do.”
Ted’s answers to Leo’s questioning show an attitude towards sex and marriage quite radical for the time—that it is okay, preferable even, for sex to come before marriage. It’s advice that directly contradicts the logic of Marian’s arrangement to marry Trimingham, which is obviously not based on physical attraction.
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Ted tells Leo it wouldn’t be “natural” to “spoon” someone without loving them. Thinking of Smiler and her foal to come, Leo asks if “spooning” between people means they will have a baby. Ted says it isn’t the same for people and for horses: “Nature doesn’t use ‘em as she does us.”
Leo clearly wants to know about the mysteries of spooning and is trying to apply logical rigor to Ted’s answers. The question about pregnancy suggests another danger of Marian and Ted’s affair—that it might result in a “bastard” child.
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Ted suggests that that is enough questions for one day. He doesn’t want to “go putting ideas” into Leo’s head. Leo says he’s ready to know more—he’s nearly thirteen. Ted agrees to tell Leo “all about spooning” but only if Leo will continue to deliver the letters. Leo has started to realize the force of attraction between Ted and Marian, comparing it to that of a magnet, but he finds it mystifying.
Ted strikes a deal with Leo—information about spooning in exchange for Leo’s services as go-between. Ted plays on Leo’s desire for knowledge to his and Marian’s advantage. Again, the magnet comparison implies that attraction is an irresistible force, fated to pull objects—or people—together.
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Ted reminds Leo that he has forgotten to slide down the straw-stack. He tells Leo to go and do so while he writes a letter for Marian.
Ted tries to calm Leo’s mind by appealing to his boyish sensibilities. It also buys him time to write the letter, and returns Ted and Leo’s relationship to its previous mode.
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