“With reference to early chapters of the novel, examine the ways in which Leos lack of preparation for the adult world in Brandam Hall is depicted, and discuss why this is an important theme of the novel”
The Go Between needs to be set in a time when it is feasible for a boy to be ignorant of the facts of life 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 setting was not specifically required for either of these situations but 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.
What Hartley does so well in the novel is to give us an insight into the inner private feelings of a boy growing up and a sense of how these contrast with the tougher exterior that he is obliged to display for the sake of survival among his peers. In private, Leo is prone to fanciful notions. He wants to identify himself with a zodiac sign, to take his place in a hierarchy of heavenly beings so that he can gaze adoringly at the one female character in the system, the virgin, and we are given access to his private thoughts about this character which indicate the extent of his boyish idealism ‘She was, to me, the key to the whole patter, the climax, the coping-stone, the goddess”. Such thoughts however Leo knows he must keep well concealed in the rough real world of a boys; boarding school where even such an innocent slip as using a pretentious word like ‘vanquished’ in a diary can lead to merciless bullying. Crying in the real school world is an indulgence only allowed after ‘lights out’ and Leo’s plight seems very realistic as he tells us that he couldn’t ask for sympathy because ‘ to confide in someone for the sake of confiding; that simply was not done.’
Leo’s feeling of having to find his own solution to his predicament is very realistically portrayed and also the way he can be a victim one moment and a here the next just because of a chance incident when the bullies are injured seemingly as a consequent of Leo’s curse. School life is like this. Realistic, too, is the way Leo is portrayed as exploiting the situation by charging money in return for necromantic tips!
Leo in the first 3 chapters of the book is landed in the deep end by going to Brandam hall. He is thrown into an adult world when unprepared.
Fear of embarrassment is a common adolescent emotion. When Leo is invited to Brandham Hall he suspects that his mother wishes to go but we are told ‘I shouldn’t have wanted that I was haunted by the schoolboys fear that mother wouldn’t look right do right be right in the eyes of the other boys and their parents. Most young people regard their parents as a potential source of embarrassment in this way.
It is fear of embarrassment too that leads Leo to lie about his lack of summer clothing at Brandham hall. He doesn’t feel he can admit that he doesn’t possess any so he pretends that his mother has forgotten to pack them this then leads to further suffering on his part because he feels now he has shown his mother in a poor light.
There are a lot of important themes in the book, the most evident being the discovery of sexuality and of the grown up world of a teenage boy, the loss of his innocence. He is scarred sexually by his summer experience later on in the book, and at the end of the book, he has turned into an emotionally hollow adult. Another main theme is past and memory; L.P Hartley begins the book with “The past is a foreign country. They do things differently here”
In conclusion, Leo seems even in the more unbelievable parts of the book to be a real boy even when he is making a magic potion with a deadly nightshade plant. Harley does not let us forget this is a twelve year olds approach to witchcraft thus the weird ritual seems at times just like an experiment in the school chemistry lab especially when Leo is aware that he should leave ‘all utensils clean and workmanlike, remembering that others have to use them after you”.