The Go Between



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.