When Marian buys Leo a new suit to save him the blushes of wearing the “wrong” sort of clothes, she picks a fetching shade of green. He loves it at first; he fancies himself as Robin Hood, with Maid Marian by his side. Of course, Robin Hood is a story more popular with children than adults, but Leo sees his new suit as representative of his entry into the world of Brandham Hall. As he spins for the crowd around the dinner table, he feels their adulation turning what were previously the “scorching gas-jets” of social anxiety into the “water fountains” of social acceptance.
But, of course, green can mean a lot more than Robin Hood. Later in the book, Marcus is jealous of Leo’s successes in the cricket match and the singing afterwards. He looks for a way to wound Leo psychologically, and finds the best option—he informs Leo that the color green is an insult, not a compliment. Leo realizes that green means unripe, youthful and inexperienced—all traits he felt he was transforming beyond. Furious at Marian for being so derogatory, he changes back into his old clothes. But this doesn’t last long—feeling again that he doesn’t fit in, he puts his green suit back on, thinking that the implicit meaning of the suit is better than the explicit teasing that wearing his home clothes brings about.
Green, too, has undertones of jealousy. Undoubtedly, Leo is partly jealous of Ted, both for his status as Marian’s lover and his physical prowess. But overall, Hartley’s use of the color green is definitely more skewed towards the first meaning—naïve innocence—than this second.
Green Quotes in The Go-Between
My spiritual transformation took place in Norwich: it was there that, like an emerging butterfly, I was first conscious of my wings. I had to wait until tea for the public acknowledgement of my apotheosis. My appearance was greeted with cries of acclaim, as if the whole party had been living for this moment. Instead of gas-jets, fountains of water seemed to spring up around me. I was made to stand on a chair and revolve like a planet, while everything of my new outfit that was visible was subjected to admiring or facetious comment.
“Green, green mon pauvre imbécile, bright green...et savez-vous pourquoi? Parce que vous êtes vert vous-même—you are green yourself, as the poor old English say…it is your true colour, Marian said so.” And he began to dance around me, chanting “Green, green, green.”