The Go-Between

by

L. P. Hartley

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The Go-Between: Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The weather starts to get hotter, and Leo and Marcus go to check the reading on a thermometer near a disused building in the grounds. Marcus shows Leo how the instrument works, but tells him not to touch it because Mr. Maudsley likes to do the readings. The reading is eighty-three degrees Fahrenheit. Leo notices that Marcus is wearing much lighter and cooler clothes than he is.
This shows the beginnings of Leo’s interest in the temperature at Brandham Hall. Perhaps this curiosity is in part due to his illness the previous summer, which made him feverish. Now in good health, Leo can investigate what was previously ill-advised (being hot). The thermometer also suggests a rise in pressure and a potential climax, which is a fair description of the entire Brandham Hall story.
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Old Leo can recall the details of his and Marcus’s clothes because he is looking at a picture of the two of them together at the time. In the picture, Leo is wearing restrictive clothes, with everything pulled up high and tight; he has on a “Norfolk jacket.” Old Leo looks at his young face and detects self-consciousness and “the strain of adaptability.”
Old Leo can see the self-consciousness on his younger self’s face. Brandham Hall is Leo’s first trip away without a parent and he is becoming aware of his presence in the world—and concerned about what people think of him. The “Norfolk jacket” is ironic: though Brandham Hall is in Norfolk, the jacket is not suited to the hot weather.
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Young Leo is not too bothered by the hot weather, though is conscious he doesn’t have any cool clothes. He prepares a spell to lower temperature, but it doesn’t work. The next day the thermometer has climbed to eighty-five. Leo wonders if he should wear his school cricket clothes because they are cooler than anything else he has. Marcus admonishes him for the thought, saying only “cads” would wear school clothes in the holidays. He also criticizes Leo for not leaving his dirty clothes on the floor in their bedroom: “You must leave them lying wherever they happen to fall—the servants will pick them up.”
After the successes of his spells at school, here is the first one that doesn’t work. Leo isn’t too concerned, as he doesn’t care that much about the heat, but it’s an early sign that he might not have the power that he believes. Leo starts to worry about his lack of cool clothes, and Marcus’s teasing makes Leo even more self-conscious about his appearance (and lack of knowledge when it comes to clothes). Marcus’s ridiculous suggestion that Leo mustn’t pick his own clothes up demonstrates the class dynamic of Brandham Hall—the Maudsleys are used to having things done for them.
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Later at tea-time, someone asks Leo if he isn’t hot in his clothes. Leo mops his face with a handkerchief and says that he isn’t, and that he and Marcus have been running. Leo feels embarrassed at the attention to his appearance, and people asking him whether he is hot or would like to take his jacket off becomes a running joke at Brandham Hall. That night Leo tries another spell to cool the weather down.
Leo’s self-consciousness intensifies, increasing the psychological pressure on him as he now attempts to lie about why he is hot. Leo once again tries to affect the world through his supernatural abilities, showing that in private, his faith in them lingers.
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The next day, the temperature has indeed dropped slightly. By that tea-time, though, it has gotten hot again, and Leo is teased further about his flustered appearance. He is also teased for wearing a Norfolk jacket, which seems doubly unfair to him considering that Brandham Hall is, after all, in Norfolk. He feels “utterly out of place” among the rich, and socially inferior. He tells the group that he might look hot, but underneath is “a chilly mortal,” which the others find hilarious.
Leo learns that there are numerous social rules, codes, and in-jokes that he is not yet aware of. After all, shouldn’t a Norfolk jacket be worn in Norfolk? He starts to sense his own class position and feels embarrassed by it. He looks on the Brandham Hall inhabitants as socially superior. This creates the sense that he is an outsider, which will prove vital to his role as the go-between.
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Mrs. Maudsley asks if Leo has forgotten his summer clothes. Not willing to admit he doesn’t really have any, he says that his mother must have accidentally left them out of his trunk. Mrs. Maudsley suggests he write to his mother and get her to send some clothes, but Marian interjects that that would take too long. She asks if she can take Leo to the nearby city of Norwich and get him a new outfit. Leo says that he hasn’t got any money, but Marian tells him “that doesn’t matter,” as the Maudsleys do.
This is Marian’s first real interaction with Leo, and on the surface of it seems to be a charitable and sympathetic gesture. Mrs. Maudsley’s reluctance to accept Marian’s suggestion implies that she doubts its sincerity and is suspicious of an ulterior motive.
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Marian suggests that the new clothes can be a birthday present for Leo, whose birthday happens to be on the twenty-seventh of that month. Leo tells Marian he was born under the sign of Leo, and that his name is actually Lionel. She jokingly suggests that she could buy him a “mane … or a lion-skin?” Trying to be part of the joke, he argues that those “might be rather hot.” Marian says they will go to Norwich tomorrow.
This is a kind of calibration of the novel’s zodiac—Leo is being ironically positioned as the lion. But the suggestion that Marian could buy the essential physical traits of a lion implies that Leo actually lacks the lion-like qualities of bravery and physical dominance. Really, she’s having a joke about how young and boyish he is.
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Mrs. Maudsley asks whether Marian would rather wait till Monday, when Lord Trimingham will have arrived, so they can all go to Norwich together. Mr. Maudsley and Denys did not realize Hugh (Lord Trimingham) was coming, thinking that he would be at the horse races. Leo doesn’t know who Hugh is, but he doesn’t want him to come—he’d rather be alone with Marian. Marian says Norwich would be boring to Hugh anyway, and that it’s important that Leo gets new clothes as soon as possible. Mrs. Maudsley reluctantly agrees to the trip.
Leo dimly senses Trimingham to be some kind of love interest of Marian’s—a rival for her attentions. She sneakily tries to make reasons for Trimingham not to come to Norwich with them, sidestepping Mrs. Maudsley’s reluctance. Evidently, Trimingham’s imminent arrival is important news for the Maudsley household.
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Marian goes to Leo and Marcus’s room to look through Leo’s clothes. She admires how well mended they are (by Leo’s mother) and asks whether Leo’s summer clothes are “a myth”: “you didn’t really have them?” Leo doesn’t mind admitting to Marian that she’s right, “delighting in the shared secret.”
This is the beginning of Marian and Leo’s secretive communication. The thought of having a private world with Marian is exciting to Leo, and makes him willing to do things to make her happy. At this point, he genuinely believes that she is just a caring young woman looking out for him.
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