The Go-Between


L. P. Hartley

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The Heat / The Thermometer Symbol Analysis

The Heat / The Thermometer Symbol Icon

Part of Leo’s initial love for the summer of 1900 is his newfound appreciation for hot weather. Having spent the previous summer in bed with fevers, his ability to move about in the heat makes him intoxicated with freedom. In fact, he actively desires the weather to get hotter and hotter. That’s why he’s frequently found at the disused game-larder on the Brandham estate—there’s a thermometer there that he can check on a daily basis. The summer of 1900 feels like a liberation for Leo, and the heat increases his attunement to his own sensuality.

The heat also represents the pressure and imminent release of Leo, Marian, and Ted’s situation. As the affair “heats up” and the secrecy becomes more difficult to maintain, the temperature goes up and up. The psychological pressure on all of the characters increases and needs an outlet. That’s why the heat’s release—the storm of the last chapter—mirrors the tragic release of pressure in the final scene, when Marian and Ted are discovered in the pouring rain.

One other thing to note is that the thermometer functions using the element mercury—the same word with which Trimingham has christened Leo (because Leo is the “messenger to the gods”). Like the mercury in the thermometer, directly respondent to the heat of its surroundings, Leo too is encapsulated in the heat of the affair. The pressure in the thermometer pushes the mercury higher and higher, just as the psychological intensity of Leo’s role places him under greater and greater mental strain.

The Heat / The Thermometer Quotes in The Go-Between

The The Go-Between quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Heat / The Thermometer. 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 3 Quotes

I came to dread these pleasantries, they seemed to spring up all around me like rows of gas-jets scorching me, and I turned redder than I was already. The frightful feeling of being marked out for ridicule came back in all its strength. I don’t think I was unduly sensitive; in my experience most people mind being laughed at more than anything else. What causes wars, what makes them drag on so interminably, than the fear of losing face?

Related Symbols: The Heat / The Thermometer
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:
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 7  Quotes

I was in love with the heat, I felt for it what the convert feels for his new religion…And without my being aware of it, the climate of my emotions had undergone a change. I was no longer satisfied with the small change of experience which had hitherto contented me. I wanted to deal in larger sums. I wanted to enjoy continuously the afflatus of spirit that I had when I was walking to Lord Trimingham and he admitted to being a Viscount. To be in tune with all that Brandham Hall meant, I must increase my stature, I must act on a grander scale. Perhaps all these desires had been dormant in me for years, and the Zodiac had been their latest manifestation.

Page Number: 69
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Heat / The Thermometer Symbol Timeline in The Go-Between

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Heat / The Thermometer appears in The Go-Between. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
Fate, Myth, and Magic Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
...9th is written “Brandham Hall.” For that day and those that follow there is a temperature recording, e.g. “Thursday 26th. 80.7 degrees.” (full context)
Chapter 3
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
The weather starts to get hotter, and Leo and Marcus go to check the reading on a thermometer near a disused... (full context)
Chapter 4
Social Class and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
...anyone was going to be there, and that he needed to cool down after getting hot from farm work. Denys tells him not to hurry and that Trimingham will arrive that... (full context)
Chapter 8 
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
After writing the letter, Leo goes back to the outhouse with the thermometer. He is impressed that it now reads a “sensational” ninety-four degrees Fahrenheit. He longs for... (full context)
Chapter 14
Social Class and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
...some point in the next couple of weeks. Leo notices that, though it’s cloudy, the temperature is continuing to rise. (full context)
Chapter 15
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Leo visits the thermometer in the game-larder. The temperature is hotter than yesterday, but he thinks it can still... (full context)
Chapter 19
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
...there is still no letter from Leo’s mother. Leo thinks it’s probably a record-breaking high temperature, but resists going to the thermometer “and nibbling at the unripe fruit of knowledge.” Leo... (full context)
Chapter 20
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
...suggests he doesn’t run so fast on his errands so that he doesn’t get “unnecessarily hot.” She acknowledges that Leo said what he was doing seemed “Very Wrong” to him, but... (full context)
Chapter 22
Coming of Age and Trauma Theme Icon
...important. Perhaps the strange turn of events at Brandham Hall has been because of the heat, he wonders. After all, it incapacitated both Mrs. Maudsley and Marcus. (full context)