The Go-Between

– Lp Hartley Essay, Research Paper

A Critical Analysis of the Opening Pages of Chaper Nine

from ?The Go-Between? by LP Hartley

The beginning passages of chapter nine are illustrative of the plot intensifying and depict a heightened relationship between Leo and Ted Burgess. They are symbolically indicative of ?the calm before the storm.?

The written use of imagery, metaphor and symbolism contribute to the novel as a whole and add a richness of meaning. The continuation of natural imagery attributed to Ted allows the reader to once again connect Ted with the natural world; ? he was usually working in the harvest fields? and Leo ?has a fancy that he was a sheaf.? Even colour is used to symbolically trap Ted in the natural world; ?Standing their the colour of corn.? However, our final vision of natural imagery is paradoxical and ambiguous, implying a bitter tone as Ted is seen ?standing with his gun waiting for the rabbits.? Here the reader is introduced to the weapon . It is significant that the reader makes this link before Leo, thus being able to fully watch and interpret Leo?s reactions when the weapon has it?s final use. This somewhat sardonic imagery is followed by more ironic symbolism as the reader hears of Ted being the colour ?between red and gold.? Red alerts the reader to danger and gold a word normally attributed to the sun -or as we are about to hear: ?Golden afternoons,? – is at once inextricably linked with Marion – the symbolic sun, whom people fly to close to and are burned. The fact that Ted is ?in between? the two colours suggests that either way he is doomed and destined to destruction. Throughout the opening passages, time and superstition are portrayed symbolically in a way that suggests the novel was written for the critics. The passage starts on a ?Tuesday? which is three days before ?that fateful Friday.? The reader is then informed that Leo ?three times? carries messages between Marion and Ted. It is also significant to notice how during the novel, Leo is three times asked to be a man and how Leo defeats and to a lesser extent ?gets the better off Ted? three times. Also, Leo slides down the straw-stack three times. These are only a few of the vast mentions and metaphorical links to the number three. Three has the essence of a magical and religious number which promotes and provokes superstition in the reader?s mind. To Leo?s horror, when he hands Ted one of the notes, he notices ?a long smear of blood? on the envelope? and he ?cries out.? This is a negative portrayal of Leo?s immaturity and highlights his naievity. It also reminds the reader that Leo is just a child and prompts the reader to regard him in a pitiful and pathetic way. However, the next time they meet Ted again confronts Leo about the blood and ironically and unpredictably Leo laughs as ?their was a part of me that accepted the blood.? This is suggestive of maturity and the reader feels that an essence of adulthood is stirring within Leo. However these suggestions are at once dismissed when Leo announces; ?I had a great time sliding down the straw-stack.? Just as Ted is in between red and gold, Leo is in between boyhood and maturity. He is lying in the purgatory of life. Leo reminds the reader that he was ?able to tell (the family) with perfect truth how he had spent his afternoons. This shows that being truthful is of importance to Leo as he exerts a higher level of moral consciousness than many of the other characters. Leo expresses his dissatisfaction with condescending regard at having been ?asked to a house where their were children.? because he ?could not readily learn the rules of their games.? Rules and games are of reoccurring symbolic importance throughout the novel as Leo is constantly trying to apply the rules of school to life and the rules of the Zodiac to that of reality. It is also significant to note that where something really childish beyond his level of maturity appears he always dismisses it as a ?game.? When Leo fails to understand the concept of ?spooning? he at once attempts to link it with a game, failing yet again to understand that the ?game of love? has no ?rules?.

Anticipation and imagery are blended towards the end of the passage when the reader is skilfully guided towards the impressions of dire prediction; ? I had a fancy that he was a sheaf…the reaper would come back for him.? This builds up suspense, preparing the reader for what will happen and promotes a negative premonition. This is similar to when the reader hears of Ted ?cleaning his gun,? which is ominous and foreboding. This links in with the element of superstitions the future is once again being foreseen. This is sardonic and satirises Leo?s ability to change the future and ?cultivate the black arts.? LP Hartley is to an extent portraying him self as a self lampoonist. Simultaneously, he is showing that no one can transcend nature , steer fate of it?s own course to destiny or even cast spells that change the temperature. This adds a tone of pathos to the novel as the reader realises that everything is destined to suffer. The fact that Leo is told to take the messages draws a parallel to the fact that he is told to play twelfth man. This again suggests that as a cause of fate, he will betray. Ironically Leo does not choose these roles, just as his friendly, naive personality would not chose to betray those dearest to him. He does it because he has been marked out by fate as the ?Judas? of the novel. Anticipation is once again fused with symbolism when the reader hears how ?everything is cut down.? Initially the field is full of corn, then area by area it is cut down until all that remains is ?the last sheaf (Ted) that the reaper had forgotten.? This is very much suggestive that Ted is next and like ?the field of uncut corn? cannot escape his fate. Leo refers to this time in the novel as the pinnacle of his social life and that ?they were golden afternoons in more than one sense. It is ?the climax? of his life even though it really only involves carrying messages. This is suggestive to the reader that after this time things will start to go wrong. The reader?s suspicions are confirmed when there is a second reference to blood: ?a long smear of blood on the envelope.? Once again the future is being foreseen. Suspense and tension are built up as Leo tries to find a ludicrous ?hypothesis as to why Marion and Ted exchange their business.? He suspects the subject matter to be money; ?I was thrilled to think I might be….like a bank messenger.? This is in a way sardonic because money is in fact the key factor in the situation, it is the fundamental reason why they cannot marry or openly be seen together.

Leo?s relationship heightens and matures in the beginning passages of chapter nine as he reaches a deeper understanding of Ted?s personality. The fact that Leo draws a parallel with Ted and the natural world – ?I had a fancy that he was a sheaf? – is indicative of his oddly profound understanding of Ted?s natural side which is slightly ironic when the reader remembers how Leo usually and almost habitually misinterprets people?s feelings and relationships. Ted aids Leo in his quest for manhood. Acknowledging Leo?s fear of blood – ?I cried out? – Ted aims to derive a joke from the situation; ?no blood on this one he said humorously and I laughed.? In this way he helps Leo to ? accept it? thus promoting him as an adult. The fact that Leo is capable of placing Ted correctly in the social hierarchy – ?Marion did not need to earn a living but Ted did.? – is representative of Ted showing no social pretensions and conveying his relatively low social stature to Leo in a proud dignified manner. This is again ironic as normally Leo misinterprets people?s social places and confuses himself; ?Slowly, painfully I said…Are you Viscount Trimmingham ?? LP Hartley conveys to the reader that Leo and Ted have a complete understanding of each other . Even when Leo?s wild fantasies try to once again rule his mind; ?Perhaps they contained money? (the notes). Ted?s straight forward personality forces him to dismiss it; ?Behind my instinctive wish to find an imaginary explanation.. there lurked a sneaking curiosity… to know the real one.? In conclusion the beginning passages of chapter nine portray the continued mutually beneficial relationship, built on trust that is shared between Ted and Leo. Ted needs Leo to act as the ?go-between? for himself and Marion and Leo needs Ted as a moral guide who can put him on the road to manhood.


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