The Go-Between

The Go-Between Chapter 15 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Later at lunch, Leo keeps thinking about two fragments of his conversation with Trimingham: that nothing is a lady’s fault and that it might be necessary to kill someone even if “you didn’t really dislike them.”
These statements are on Leo’s mind because they have worrying implications for Ted and Trimingham. If Trimingham finds out about the affair, thinks Leo, he might have to kill Ted even if he doesn’t want to.
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Marcus tells Leo that he can’t hang around with him that afternoon as he has to visit his grandmother with Marian. He reminds Leo that Marian and Trimingham’s engagement is a secret. Marcus asks if Leo will spend his afternoon sliding down the straw-stack. Leo says he’s done with all that and might visit the rubbish heap instead.
Leo feels that he is now too mature to go sliding on the straw-stack. Marcus’s request to keep the engagement secret means Leo is privy to even more hidden information, putting him in a dangerous situation with potentially grave consequences.
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Leo visits the thermometer in the game-larder. The temperature is hotter than yesterday, but he thinks it can still do better. Marian suddenly appears, and to Leo’s surprise asks him to take a letter to the farm.
Marian has clearly sought Leo out, deliberately avoiding detection. Leo is genuinely shocked that there’s another letter, showing that he hasn’t figured everything out in the way he thought.
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Leo is “dumbfounded,” as “the scaffolding of [his] life seemed to collapse.” Leo thinks it’s wrong that if she is engaged to Trimingham she should be “friendly” with another man, and that it might lead to murder.
Leo can’t see any resolution other than tragedy, given the story he’s heard about the fifth Viscount. Marian’s willingness to continue the communication has made Leo’s way of seeing the world uncertain.
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Leo tells Marian he can’t take her letter because Trimingham might be upset. She reacts angrily, insisting that the letters are only “a business matter.” She lambasts Leo for being ungrateful and uncooperative, and assumes that Leo wants money. Leo, distraught at Marian’s anger, snatches the letter from her and runs as fast he can.
Marian, of course, doesn’t know that Leo knows about the affair. He’s never seen her angry before, and so her reaction causes him great psychological distress—she is in the process of losing her virginal innocence in his mind, again threatening Leo’s entire perspective.
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Leo is gravely hurt by Marian’s outburst. He credits her as being the “fairy princess” who has turned him from “an ugly duckling into a swan.” He feels that his successes of the recent days are due to her “spell,” but that now she has taken it all away. He now suspects that everything that she has done for him was with an “ulterior motive.” At this realization he begins to cry, but holds onto Trimingham’s advice that “nothing is ever a lady’s fault.”
This shows just how fragile Leo’s happiness has been, and how contingent it was on Marian’s affectionate treatment of him. To him, she possesses a supernatural ability to make or break him. Losing faith in her means losing faith in his entire cosmology. To combat this, he tries to make sense of what’s happening using Trimingham’s key piece of advice as his guide.
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Related Quotes
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After some debate with himself as to whether he should deliver the letter, Leo heads to the farm and finds Ted inside the kitchen. Ted is bare-chested, peering into the muzzle of his gun.
The image of Ted with his gun builds the sense of a growing threat coming to the surface in the novel. His semi-nakedness emphasizes his physicality.
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Ted notices that Leo has been crying and asks him why. He puts forward ways to cheer Leo up, suggesting that they take the gun outside and let it off.
Ted offers Leo a new experience, again positioning himself as a kind of role model.
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In the stackyard, Ted fires the gun at a rook, frightening Leo. Leo asks Ted if he ever misses, to which Ted replies that he’s a “pretty good shot.” They take the gun back inside so that Ted can show Leo how to clean it. Leo admires the muscles in Ted’s arms as he cleans the gun.
Leo is fascinated by Ted’s physical appearance, partially from attraction and partially from jealousy—neither of which he understands much. The presence of the gun reaffirms the possibility of a duel to come.
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With the gun now clean, Ted gets Leo to hold it, which Leo finds to be a “strange thrill.” Leo points it at things in the room, and then at Ted. Ted tells him that he should never do that, even if it isn’t loaded.
Leo feels empowered by the gun. Even though he doesn’t mean to shoot Ted, the fact he points the unloaded gun shows that on a subconscious level Leo is tempted to annihilate Ted. The gun is also a phallic symbol, momentarily giving Leo the kind of masculine prowess that Ted displays throughout the book.
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Leo’s mood improves, and he offers to oil Ted’s cricket bat. As he does so, Ted asks if Leo has a letter for him. Leo suddenly feels that it is time for him to leave, and asks if Ted has a message for Marian.
Leo’s sympathies for Ted kick in because he admires him. He wants to please Ted—just as he does Marian and Trimingham—so he offers to deliver another message.
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Ted asks whether Leo actually wants to take a message, and Leo says that if he doesn’t then Marian will be angry. Ted realizes that Marian is the cause of Leo’s upset. Ted asks if there’s a favor he can do for Leo in exchange for the delivery of his message.
This is typical of Ted and Leo’s relationship: give and take. It also shows how quickly Leo’s feelings can be affected by the presence of the people he is with—he’s an impressionable boy, despite his “new identity.” Deep down, Leo doesn’t want to give up his status as messenger for the gods.
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Leo reminds Ted that he had promised to tell him about “spooning.” Ted’s not sure if he should, saying that it’s a job for Leo’s dad (not realizing he is dead). Ted tells Leo that it means “putting your arm around a girl and kissing her.” Leo thinks it’s something more—that it makes you “feel.
Leo only thinks about “spooning” when he is with Ted. This is partly because of Ted’s impressive form, but also because Leo intuits that Ted “spoons” with Marian. Ted emphasizes the link between sex and emotions.
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Ted asks Leo what he likes doing best. Leo can’t think of much, but suggests dreams about flying, or “waking up and knowing that somebody you dreamed had died was really alive.” Ted says to think of that, and then “add some,” and that is what “spooning” is like. Leo implores Ted to tell him more, and says he won’t take any messages for Ted if not. Ted stands up, “armoured by his nakedness,” and tells Leo to get out of there quick—“or you’ll be sorry.”
Leo has no real comparison to make with sex as it’s so unfamiliar to him, but he really wants to know more. Ted is uncomfortable with going into any more detail, but Leo feels like Ted is his only real opportunity to get some answers. Leo tries to blackmail Ted—but Ted’s sudden change of mood scares him. Ted’s nakedness is both a source of fascination and intimidation.
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