The Go Between Essay Research Paper How

The Go Between Essay, Research Paper

How does Hartley use the setting of the novel,The Go Between, in terms of time, as a fitting backdop for Leo’s story

Hartley chose to set his story in the year 1900. This is important as Hartley wants to convey the idea at the beginning of the novel that Leo believes himself to be living in a year of great promise, and to be witnessing the dawn ?of a Golden Age’. The novel is concerned with Leo’s youthful idealism and ultimately his disillusionment. The choice of a new century and particularly the twentieth century, provides an ideal setting for Leo’s story. To begin with, while Leo is still at boarding school, his fantasies about being on the brink of a golden age seem to bear no relation to his real experience as a schoolboy. He is content to keep his imaginary world and his real life separate. However, when Leo is invited to Brandham Hall it is as if he is to experience the coming of the golden age after all. When he is given a summer suit which enables him to enjoy hot, sunny weather, he perceives the expenditure on his new outfit as ?god-like’ (p50). We are told that ?it belonged to another, ampler phase of being than the one I was accustomed to.’ Earlier on (p19) we are told that Leo views the people at Brandham Hall as ?the incarnated glory of the twentieth century.’ Whereas at boarding school, Leo’s fantasies had relied on comtemplation of the Zodiac signs in his diary as a means of giving him a glimpse into the celestial world, now her feels as if he is truly inhabiting the world of gods and goddesses. When Lord Trimingham calls Leo Mercury, this serves as confirmation that Leo is in a celestial world. He is no mere errand boy but a messenger of the gods. Marion’s beauty and generosity give her the stature of a goddess, while the glory of Lord Trimingham’s ancestry, bathes him in a divine glow. Leo seems to see the glory of Hugh’s family while in the church which contains commemerative tablets to the various Trimingham Viscounts through history. He tells us that ?A glory brighter than sunshine filled the transept.’ (p68) And this glory, Leo feels can be shared by all those who inhabit Brandham Hall, including guests like himself. It seems to Leo that being at Brandham Hall enables him to perform feats that make him truly part of the celestrial world. His catch in the cricket match and his song after it both confer glory on him and the sun continues to shine, a fitting part of the golden age setting. However, this glory is under threat. Bitter disillusionment is at hand. Marian’s god-like generosity begins to seem merely a form of bribery to secure Leo’s messenger services Marian is also guilty of ?spooning’ surreptitiously on the ground in shed rather than conducting herself in a more god-like manner. The sun departs and with a thunderstorm orchestration Marian’s affair with Ted is discovered in the most unfortunate manner. Hysteria, suicide and trauma are the consequence. The twentieth century provides a very suitable setting for this story It too is shown not to live up to its promise While the new century was dawning all was not as rosy as it seemed. The Boer War was in progress and had left its cruel mark on Lord Trimingham’s face. His face, compared to Janus’s, reminds us of evils which had occurred already before the start of the new century. Hugh is destined to live only another ten years – his future is blighted too. At the end of the novel, when the elderly Leo visits Marian, it is Marian who underlines the serious flaws that were soon to develop in the twentieth century The First World War seems have claimed the lives of both Denys and Marcus. The deaths of Hugh and her two brothers were, says Marion ?the fault of this hideous century we live in, which has denatured humanity and planted death and hate where love and living were. (P279). Marion’s choice of wording here makes a powerful link between the early 20th century and the events which occurred at Brandham. Just as the potential glory of a new century has been spoiled by the hate and death which warfare entails, so too has the glory of life at Brandham been blighted Marian and Ted’s love for each other should have been a glorious thing but it was forced by the social structure of the time to become surreptitious and culpable. Their love led to Ted’s death and Leo’s jaded withdrawal from life. Leo becomes dehumanised by his experience at Brandham Hall just as the warfare of the 20th century dehumanised many people. His traumatized state could be equated with the shell shock suffered by many survivors of the First World War. Thus Hartley’s choice of the year 1900 as the setting for his novel seems very appropriate. Interesting parallels can be drawn between the larger national events of the early 20th century and the story that takes place at Brandham Hall. . It might also be relevant to comment that the tragedy of ?The Go Between’ depends on the book being set in a time when there was a more rigid class structure than there is today. The tragedy occurs partly because it is set in a time when women from monied classes did not work for their living. Thus Marian never really considers Ted viable as a husband because she does not want to give up the privileges of her social status and has no profession to support herself. She also lives in an age wjhen there is a stigma attached to illegitimate childbirth. This explains Marian’s sense of despair that she must marry Hugh even though it is Ted’s child that she is carrying. The book also needs to be set in a time when it is feasible for a boy to be ignorant of the facts of live when he is almost thirteen. The loss of innocence is an important theme of the novel. For the book to work, it is necessary for Leo to be old enough for there to be signs of his stirring sexuality as well as for him to be ignorant of actual facts. Obviously a 20th century settling was not specifically required for either of these situations but as previously stated it is very effective to choose a new century and to make it one which was to be gravely affected by conflict – the century which witnessed two world wars suits Hartley’s purpose very well.


Just completed English A level. Now taking an Open University Course in literature.


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