The Go-Between

by

L. P. Hartley

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Go-Between can help.

The Go-Between: Chapter 13 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The post-match supper takes place in the village hall, which is opulently decorated with Union Jacks and paper streamers. Leo feels intoxicated by the occasion, especially given his success in the cricket match. He feels like a “companion of the stars”, but equally that he rightfully belongs where he is. The seating arrangement mixes up the groups, alternating between members of the Brandham Hall party and villagers.
The decorations in the village hall are clearly designed to create a sense of common identity between the villagers and those from the Hall. Leo feels he is in the ascendancy now, not just a go-between for the stars, but temporarily one of them.
Themes
Social Class and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
Fate, Myth, and Magic Theme Icon
Mr. Maudsley gives a speech, praising players from both teams. He makes special mention of Leo: “last, but not least, except in stature, our young David, Leo Colston, who slew the Goliath of Black Farm if I may so describe him, not with a sling, with a catch.” At this, Ted gives Leo a wink.
Ted clearly shows pride in Leo’s achievements, making it more difficult for Leo to ally with the Hall. Though Mr. Maudsley isn’t being serious in his David and Goliath comparison, it adds to the sense that the drama has biblical proportions—and Goliath dies in that story.
Themes
Social Class and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
Masculinity Theme Icon
After the speeches, it’s time for songs. However, the accompanist who was due to play the piano for the singers has not arrived. Trimingham asks for a volunteer accompanist. Nobody seems willing, but eventually Marian gets up and walks over to the piano.
The accompanist’s absence means that Marian will be in close proximity to whoever comes up to sing: there is an intimacy between accompanist and singer. Trimingham, as the landlord of the estate, dictates proceedings.
Themes
Social Class and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Marian proves to be a “skilled accompanist.” The first singers are taken from the cricket teams, and soon Ted is called upon to sing. He is reluctant to go up, but the villagers heckle him relentlessly. Trimingham adds his voice to theirs, saying, “Now don’t disappoint us, Ted.”
The villagers love Ted and want to hear him sing. Ted is reluctant to get so agonizingly close to Marian, but has to give in to the peer pressure. He, too, has a social standing to live up to.
Themes
Social Class and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Get the entire The Go-Between LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Go-Between PDF
Ted gets up to sing, and nervously hands his sheet music over to Marian. After a shaky start, Ted gives a “creditable performance” of “Take a Pair of Sparkling Eyes.” The audience insists on an encore. After putting his head close to Marian to confer on what to play, Ted sings a “sentimental” song that features the lyrics, “When other lips and other hearts their tales of love shall tell, in language whose excess imparts the power they feel so well.”
Ted’s nerves might be because he is afraid of singing, but it’s more likely that it’s being so close to Marian without being able to touch her that upsets him. This mirrors their relationship more generally: they live near to each other but aren’t allowed to interact out in the open. The songs he chooses allow him to sing about his love for Marian in full view of Trimingham and Mrs. Maudsley, without them realizing the sincerity of his performance.
Themes
Love, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Leo is entranced by the meaning of these songs, sensing them to be about the grown-up world. And he’s intoxicated by the sound of the words. But he doesn’t see how they have anything to do with “spooning.” Leo sits in ecstasy as he listens to the rest of the song, “the music of the spheres.”
Leo still hasn’t made the connection between romantic love and sex, but its language is appealing to him. He’s happy to be in the world of romance without understanding it fully, sensing its grandeur and drama.
Themes
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
With the song finished, Marian and Ted bow to the audience. Ted’s movements are awkward and jerky, leading Trimingham to say to the person next to him, “not very gallant, is he?” Another guest says they’d make a “handsome pair,” if it wasn’t for “the difference.”
The guest’s comment is highly ironic, given that Marian and Ted already do make a “handsome pair”—just in secret. Trimingham mistakenly puts Ted’s awkwardness down to his lack of refinement, when in fact Ted is overwhelmed by his proximity to Marian in full view of the crowd.
Themes
Social Class and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
After other guests sing their songs, Trimingham asks Leo to perform. He apprehensively climbs the stage, feeling his “mouth going dry.” Marian asks Leo what songs he knows. They decide to play “The Minstrel Boy,” which Marian knows well.
Leo is self-conscious about having to perform. The Minstrel Boy is a song about a young boy going off to war with tragic consequences, reminding the reader about old Leo’s feeling that Brandham Hall cost him his life.
Themes
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
Leo’s song goes down extremely well with the audience. While singing it, he half daydreams about Marian and the sacrifices he would make for her. At the end of the song, there is “a storm of clapping.”
Leo is almost living in a dream. Everyone’s attentions are on him and he’s close to his “sun,” Marian. He feels once again that he would do anything for her.
Themes
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
The crowd wants an encore from Leo. He suggests Handel’s “Angels ever bright and fair,” which Marian doesn’t know. However, someone in the audience has the sheet music. They begin the song, Leo singing the lines: “Oh worse than death, indeed! Lead me, ye guards, lead me on to the rack, or to the flames; I’ll thank your gracious mercy.” Leo likes to sing this song, not just because he can match its technical difficulty, but because he senses in it “the idea of something worse than death.” The crowd adores Leo’s moving rendition.
The song choice here reflects Leo’s belief in the supernatural world. In it, angels take care of the living, comforting them as they pass into the afterlife. This prompts Leo’s ever-increasing fascination with things he doesn’t understand—he wonders what could be worse than death. Perhaps the answer is a kind of living death, a life not lived to its fullest—like old Leo’s.
Themes
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
Fate, Myth, and Magic Theme Icon
Later on, Marian sings the song Lord Trimingham requested. It sings of “the joys of home”—the peace of a “thatched cottage”—which Leo thinks contrasts strangely with her aristocratic home environment. She sings it “with so much feeling.” Marian refuses to give an encore, which only makes Leo adore her more: “she was not of our clay, she was a goddess, and we must not think that by worshipping her we could lower her to our level.”
The song Trimingham has requested unwittingly reflects Marian’s true desires to be free from the aristocratic restrictions of Brandham Hall and to live a more humble life with Ted. Her exquisite performance serves to make her seem even more god-like in Leo’s eyes—an attitude that can only end in disappointment.
Themes
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
Fate, Myth, and Magic Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
After the party, Leo walks home with Marcus. Marcus teases Leo, but says “you didn’t do so badly after all.” Marcus then talks about Mrs. Maudsley’s difficulty mixing with the villagers, saying she feels like he does about “the plebs” (including the “brute” Ted Burgess) and asking Leo if he noticed “the stink in the hall.” Leo says that he didn’t, but Marcus says he nearly had to vomit three times.
Marcus displays extreme prejudice towards the villagers and has none of the conflicting loyalties that Leo does. Marcus is being dramatic, of course, but his insults demonstrate that he and Leo are growing apart. He knows nothing of the new world that Leo has come to inhabit.
Themes
Social Class and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
Marcus continues to tease Leo, saying he was too busy to notice the stink because he was singing his songs and being so pious. He adds that, during Leo’s song about angels, the people in the hall looked “as if they were thinking about their dear dead ones” and Ted “looked as if he might be going to blub.” Marcus tells Leo a secret: Marian is engaged to marry Trimingham. He asks Leo if he is glad, to which Leo replies, “Yes, I am. I’m sure I am.”
What Marcus is saying shows how good Leo’s performance was, but to Marcus that’s a cause for embarrassment rather than pride. Leo is engulfed in the world of emotions, even if he doesn’t fully understand it; Marcus is just a typical schoolboy. Ted’s tearful face is more likely to do with Marian than any dead relative. Leo is taken back by the confirmation that Marian is to marry Trimingham; he needs to figure out how that fact fits in with her relationship with Ted.
Themes
Social Class and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
Fate, Myth, and Magic Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Related Quotes