The Go-Between

by

L. P. Hartley

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The Go-Between: Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Leo feels reconciled with Marian, if still concerned about what she plans to do. Leo worries about what will happen between Ted and Trimingham. Leo wonders whose fault the situation is. Though he feels sympathy for Ted, he thinks it must ultimately be his fault—he has “bewitched” Marian and cast a spell on her.
Leo seeks to apportion blame for the dire situation, with Trimingham’s advice sounding loud in his mind: “nothing is ever a lady’s fault.” His worldview is still fundamentally supernatural—he believes that Ted’s physical form has cast a spell on Marian. Physical attraction is a mysterious, spell-like force.
Themes
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
Fate, Myth, and Magic Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Leo intends to break the spell of Ted over Marian. That’s why he falsified the time that Ted had said he would meet Marian. Leo thinks Marian will turn up at six, get impatient waiting for Ted (due at six thirty) and decide, in the ensuing argument, never to see him again.
The reader learns Leo’s logic in changing the meeting time. He knows that Marian is impatient, and is counting on that to help drive her apart from Ted—but he hasn’t really bargained for the sheer strength of her devotion.
Themes
Love, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Leo feels everything has been diminished by the Marian-Ted relationship, and that it’s the cause all of their troubles—including his own. It seems to him to be a “parasite of the emotions. Nothing else could live with it or have an independent existence while it was there.” Leo knows there are no lengths the lovers will not go to maintain their passion. Leo compares himself to the serpent in the Garden of Eden.
The lovers’ passion is becoming all-consuming. Leo senses that the logical conclusion of their love is the destruction of everything around it (himself included). Leo frames the affair as a loss of innocence—and he is the tempter that has made it possible.
Themes
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Leo decides to make a spell to break Ted’s hold over Marian. He imagines using magic to make Ted and Marian forget each other, or perhaps become “invisible to each other.” Leo believes that his spell must involve him doing something that he dreads, to give it the required strength and “symbolic appropriateness.”
Leo wants to fight fire with fire—to cast his supernatural powers against those he believes Ted to possess. But this will take something much stronger than his earlier “vanquishing” of Jenkins and Strode, since the “spell” of love between Ted and Marian is extremely powerful. To make his own spell powerful, Leo feels he has to go to the depths of his psyche.
Themes
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
Fate, Myth, and Magic Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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That night, after secretly listening to Marian and others sing, Leo sneaks out of the house. The night scares Leo; it’s a place for “bad grown-ups” like “thieves, murderers and such.” He plans to conduct a moonlit “chemistry experiment” and needs poisonous ingredients. Leo mentally rehearses the method for his potion, which he has written down in his diary. Old Leo interjects that he had intended at the time to tear that page out of the diary, but that events the next day had made him forget to do so.
The way Leo feels about the night reminds the reader that he is still just a boy—he’s afraid of the dark. But he’s determined to cast his spell, which he thinks is for everyone’s good. The interjection by old Leo demonstrates the schism created in his life by the events that are about to occur.
Themes
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
Fate, Myth, and Magic Theme Icon
Leo arrives at the outhouse with the overgrown deadly nightshade. He goes inside, “into the unhallowed darkness where it lurked, that springing mass of vegetable force.” The plant has filled every available space of the building, and Leo momentarily panics that he will get poisoned himself. He wrestles with the plant and tugs at the roots, shouting “delenda est belladonna!” Finally, it gives way and comes out of the ground, sending Leo toppling backwards.
The growth of the nightshade mimics the growth of Marian, Ted, and Leo’s dark secret. It has become a force unto itself and is infecting everything around it. Leo sees the nightshade as a kind of “pure evil,” representative of the immorality of the affair. His shouting translates to mean, “the nightshade must be destroyed”—but “belladonna” also has suggestions of “beautiful woman.”
Themes
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
Fate, Myth, and Magic Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon