Short summary - The Go-Between - Leslie Poles Hartley

British literature summaries -

Short summary - The Go-Between
Leslie Poles Hartley

An aging Lionel Colston recalls the days he spent as a boy with his school friend Markus Models at Brandem Hall in the summer of 1900. The belief in the inviolability of centuries-old order, when each person should occupy a strictly defined position in society, corresponding to his origin, this is the basis of the British understanding of the world, which is presented in the novel through the perception of a child from a poor family who has fallen into the atmosphere of a rich house. Everything is done according to the ritual: they treat servants and representatives of the lower classes underlined politely, go down to breakfast only in shoes and in no case slippers, etc. All these details come up in the memory of the narrator who found a diary that he kept as a child and in which the impressions of that time are recorded.

Mrs. Maudsley, her husband, their daughter Marian, sons Denis and Marcus appear in the novel as masters of life, knowing their own worth and knowing how to put everyone else in their proper place. Each person serves as a means for them - either entertainment, or pleasure, or strengthening their position in society. So, they invited Leo Colston for the holidays, so that their son Markus would not be bored in an adult society, where no one is particularly interested in him - neither father, nor brother and sister, nor mother. Leo, by his origin standing much lower than the Model, admires these people, in whose power it was to destroy him with «mockery or make happy a smile», he is all in the grip of illusions from which he has to recover.

The childishly receptive Leo notices various bright, from his point of view, details, but they turn out to be the most "talking" characterizing the system of socio-psychological relations in a society divided by rigid estate partitions. Although the hero himself at first only vaguely suspects that he is in a different world, where he is looked down upon as a representative of the lower class. It all starts with clothing, one of the main components of the ritual, which is sacredly observed in Brandem Hall. Leo has no idea about this, and therefore among people who look at «life as a rite,» he looks like a «black sheep,» about which members of the Maudsley family tactfully let him know with a smile on their faces. Most frankly, with childish spontaneity, this is what Marcus does, in a friendly way, educating Leo about the fact that only ignoramuses wear a school dress on vacation,


It soon turns out that Leo does not have a summer suit, and he becomes the object of ridicule in the form of polite tips like - «Take off your jacket, you would be more comfortable without it,» tips that are impossible, because the etiquette in clothes is very strict and it’s almost impossible to take off the jacket unthinkable.

Finally, Marian offers to give Leo a summer suit, and the whole family discusses in detail which store to buy it in, and then, after purchase, the color of the suit. Leo is happy - it seems to him that the new clothes help him to occupy a more important place in the world. Marian's favorable attitude inspires him, and she uses Leo for her own purposes - instructs him to carry notes to the neighboring farmer Ted Burges, his lover. Leo keeps the secret entrusted to him, for he is ready for anything for Marian, and Ted treats the guest of the noble hosts with respect.

Ted is a farmer, one of those who feed England, and the writer respectfully portrays how he works on the field when Leo brings him Marian's notes or picks up the answer. Ted holds on with dignity, although he is only a tenant of someone else's land. Like the land he cultivates, Ted embodies the primordial natural principle - one of the main values for the author. At the sight of his strong body, while swimming in the river, Leo is even timid, having an idea only of «fragile bodies and souls».

Ted is the unspoken rival of Lord Trimmingham in the fight for Marian’s heart, although she tells Leo that she and Ted have only business correspondence. Leo is the owner of very important information, on which too much depends - in fact, the future of the Maudsley family, who want, by marrying Marian to the lord, to strengthen their position in society. Trimming is in many respects opposed to Ted - even outwardly he is not so physically developed, and on his face is a scar received during the Boer War. He is the owner of the estate, which Models rent for the summer, and the owner of all the lands around. He is clearly unsympathetic to Marian, but in accordance with the unwritten laws of British society, everything should be decided in his favor, because socially the farmer is no match for the lord and feelings here mean nothing. Each of them appears in the eyes of the Model family as a means, an instrument:

In the eyes of Leo and the author, Trimmingham is the bearer of the strength of the British spirit, the ideal of a gentleman who embodies the traditional universal values in the English version. He participated in a victorious war with the Boers, although the Boers themselves do not cause any hatred in him, but - this is the law of war: either you kill, or you. It is these people who have been placed above farmers and tillers like Ted Burges (although both are appreciated by the author), they are the ones who are in the hands of the helm of the country's leadership. The role of each is especially evident during the annual traditional cricket match between the Brandem Hall team and local farmers: "The opposing forces were built like this: the tenant is the landowner, the commoner is the lord, the village is the estate." And the team led by Lord Trimmingham wins.


Soon, Leo, a child in love with Marian, begins to understand that there is a cold calculation behind all her good deeds - to use him as an intermediary, a postman carrying notes to Ted, whom he puts below in accordance with the ideas about moral values inculcated in him at school Lord Trimmingham. He also guesses the meaning of Marian’s relationship with Ted and perceives this as a betrayal; after all, everyone already knows about the engagement of Marian with Lord Trimmingham. But Marian insists on fulfilling the assignment and gives him a bicycle on his birthday, giving the boy joy, she does not forget about her interest - it is easier to get to the Ted's farm by bicycle.

Leo learns that Lord Trimmingham offers Ted to go to serve in the army, and tells Marian about this, who becomes very excited. Leo himself is acting recklessly and gives Mrs. Maudsley a reason for suspicion. She finds lovers in the barn during their date. Leo later discovers that when he arrived home, Ted shot himself. After all these events, Leo fell ill for a long time and received a serious mental trauma for his whole life. He never married, for he saw by the example of Ted how love affairs could end and how much falsity surrounded them.