The Go-Between

by

L. P. Hartley

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The Go-Between: Chapter 19 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Leo awaits a telegram from his mother to summon him home, but it doesn’t arrive. He spends the day playing with Marcus, who tells him about the extravagant ball that will happen soon. Marcus again teases Leo for being green. Marcus tells Leo that the Hall is making preparations for Leo’s birthday as part of the ball.
Marcus knows now that being “green” is Leo’s weakness, so he won’t stop mentioning it. With regards to the ball, Marcus doesn’t know about Leo’s plan to escape Brandham Hall early. If Leo gets summoned home as he wishes, he’ll miss the ball and any birthday preparations for Leo will be in vain.
Themes
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
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Marcus tells Leo that the highlight of the ball is to be Marian’s arrival on his green bike. If Mrs. Maudsley will let her, Marian will make a grand entrance wearing tights.
It’s as if the universe is planning a cruel cosmic joke on Leo: Marian, the object of his affections and sorrows, is going to create this enticing scene in which the main visual element—apart from her tights—will starkly remind him that he is thought of as naïve, young, and inexperienced.
Themes
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
Marcus and Leo see the boy who delivers telegraphs to the Hall cycling up towards them. They stop the boy excitedly, but the telegram is not for Leo; it’s from Marian to Mr. Maudsley, and says she’ll be arriving later than planned tomorrow. Leo realizes that a telegram is too expensive for his mother and that most likely a letter will arrive from her very soon.
Leo is sure that there is going to be a telegram for him, and doesn’t consider whether his mother might opt not to summon him back. His current psychological stability is based on his certainty that soon enough he will be home.
Themes
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
Wednesday morning comes, and there is still no letter from Leo’s mother. Leo thinks it’s probably a record-breaking high temperature, but resists going to the thermometer “and nibbling at the unripe fruit of knowledge.” Leo thinks about his departure, and whom he ought to thank before he leaves; his mother always asks if there is anyone he should thank.
Leo explicitly links heat to sin—that’s what he’s referring to by “fruit of knowledge.” He wants to return to a state of innocence, before the Fall (in this case his involvement in Marian and Ted’s illicit affair). He’s so sure he’s going home that he has turned his mind to the formalities of leaving.
Themes
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
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Leo thinks that he ought to thank Ted and bid him goodbye. He needs a way to evade Marcus and comes up with the idea that Ted is going to give Leo a swimming lesson. Marcus says he wouldn’t mind if Leo drowns Ted—Marcus has a “habit of speaking badly of people, especially those of a lower social status.” Leo departs for the farm.
Interestingly, Hartley did write a swimming scene for Leo and Ted, but decided not to include it in the book because it made Leo’s physical attraction to Ted too simple and obvious (it is anything but). Marcus continues to demonstrate his snobbery—but it’s largely a performance put on in order to show off to his friend.
Themes
Social Class and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
Leo finds Ted in the field. Ted says he didn’t expect him to come back and wishes Leo good luck for the future. Leo asks if it’s true that Ted might enlist in the army and go to fight in the Boer War. Ted asks who told Leo; Leo says Trimingham. Ted is aware of Marian and Trimingham’s engagement and says that he might go to war; it depends on what Marian wants.
Ted is almost completely resigned to losing Marian, which is why he’s considering going to war—essentially a form of self-sacrifice. He leaves it up to Marian, because the consequences of them going public would be much graver for her than for him—in theory. Trimingham’s authority is gently present in this scene, as it’s Trimingham who has offered Ted the army opportunity.
Themes
Masculinity Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Ted asks whether Leo has told anyone about his and Marian’s “business matter.” Leo says that he hasn’t. Ted now addresses Leo as “Master Colston,” making Leo think Ted has “become acutely conscious of the social gap” between the two of them. Leo asks Ted to call him “postman” instead of the formalities.
Ted attempts to make amends with Leo by showing him deference in his terms of address. But Leo, as is always the case when he is actually with Ted, wants Ted to like him. He still sees Ted as a role model and wants to please him. The reader should note that though Leo has not talked openly to anyone about the “business matter” (the affair), he has let slip to Marcus that he often knows Marian’s whereabouts.
Themes
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
Masculinity Theme Icon
Ted apologizes again for shouting at Leo earlier and says that Leo’s questions about “spooning” were only natural. Leo says that it’s fine—he knows someone else he can ask about it. Ted shakes Leo’s hand, saying, “so long then, postman.” As Leo turns to leave, he feels “grieved to be parting” from Ted and offers to take one last message to Marian. Ted gratefully tells Leo to inform Marian that “tomorrow’s no good, I’m going to Norwich, but Friday at half-past six, same as usual.”
If Leo were to leave it here, perhaps there would be no tragedy to follow. But he loves his identity as go-between: it makes him feel purposeful and powerful. That’s why he offers to take one last message for Ted, as a gesture of goodwill. Leo, of course, thinks he’ll be home by Friday anyway—out of sight and out of mind of Brandham Hall.
Themes
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon