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
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?
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.
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.