The Go-Between

Magnets Symbol Icon

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.

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Magnets Symbol Timeline in The Go-Between

The timeline below shows where the symbol Magnets appears in The Go-Between. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue 
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
Fate, Myth, and Magic Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
...back to his childhood. Amongst its contents are “two dry, empty sea urchins; two rusty magnets; some negatives rolled up in a tight coil,” and, most significantly to him, his old... (full context)
Chapter 10 
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
Fate, Myth, and Magic Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
...realize the force of attraction between Ted and Marian, comparing it to that of a magnet, but he finds it mystifying. (full context)