Magnets crop up throughout The Go-Between, bringing up ideas of attraction and irresistible force. Like two lovers who can’t help but be together, if the positive and negative sides of a magnet are placed close to one another the force of attraction brings them together. Ted and Marian, who know they are forbidden by society to be together because of their class differences, are pulled together by an unstoppable force of attraction that cannot be disrupted by any means other than violence.
In the novel’s prologue, Leo finds two rusty magnets alongside his diary of 1900 (the fateful year in question). The fact that his magnets have rusted shows that, because of the trauma of that summer, he didn’t reach sexual maturity and was never attractive to or attracted by the people in his life. The rustiness shows that, despite the elderly Marian’s protestation that “it isn’t too late” for Leo to find love, his emotional life has been dead for decades.