The Go-Between

by

L. P. Hartley

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Green Symbol Icon

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

The The Go-Between quotes below all refer to the symbol of Green. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Social Class and Hierarchy Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the New York Review of Books edition of The Go-Between published in 1953.
Chapter 4 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Leo Colston (speaker), Marian Maudsley
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 17 Quotes

“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.”

Related Characters: Leo Colston (speaker), Marcus Maudsley (speaker), Marian Maudsley
Related Symbols: Green
Page Number: 175
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Go-Between LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Go-Between PDF

Green Symbol Timeline in The Go-Between

The timeline below shows where the symbol Green appears in The Go-Between. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4
Social Class and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
Masculinity Theme Icon
Fate, Myth, and Magic Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
...everyone can get a good look at his new outfit. The guests remark on the green color of his clothes and, when one likens him to Robin Hood, he is “delighted”... (full context)
Chapter 6 
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
...all his stuff is already waiting, and changes into his new outfit—“Robin Hood in Lincoln green”—and leaves the house with a “tingling sense of imminent adventure.” (full context)
Chapter 7 
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
...cleans up Leo’s knee, telling him he’s lucky the blood didn’t go on his nice green suit. Leo is hugely relieved and tells Ted that Marian gave him the suit. Ted... (full context)
Chapter 17
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
Masculinity Theme Icon
...bicycle is a Humber—a much sought-after brand. He also says that the bike is bright green. Marcus asks Leo if he knows why the bike is going to be green. Marcus... (full context)
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
Leo is suddenly mortified to be thought of as “green”—he sees it as “a subtle insult, meant to make me look a fool.” He feels... (full context)
Chapter 18
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
...about Marian but can’t “answer it.” He feels that her vision of him as “ the Green Huntsman ” has been “intoxicating” and “like a rebirth.” (full context)
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
Leo now resents Marian thinking of him as green, and he can’t bear to look at his green suit. He is relieved that she’s... (full context)
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
...imagines the bicycle, and thinks that, if he hadn’t learnt of the reason for its green color, he would have loved to receive it. (full context)
Chapter 19
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
Masculinity Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
...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. (full context)
Chapter 22
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
...young Leo decides he will put on his original clothes rather than his more luxurious green suit. After prayers, Leo is lightly teased for his clothes, but Trimingham defends him—he says... (full context)
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
...if someone else can do them. The present is a tie to go with his green suit. (full context)
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
Another present, this one from Leo’s aunt, also contains a tie to go with his green suit (which she has heard about from Leo’s mother). The group much prefers the tie... (full context)
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
...“spectator.” Just before lunch, Leo goes up to his room and changes back into the green suit, which makes him feel more “normal.” (full context)
Chapter 23
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
Leo and Mrs. Maudsley pass through the hall, where Leo catches a glimpse of the green bicycle. It reminds him of a little “mountain sheep with curly horns, its head lowered... (full context)