To what extent is personal weakness to blame for what happens to the main characters in Hartley's novel "The Go-Between"?

Essay by sarahvanballekomA-, May 2006

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In Hartley's "The Go-Between", Leo suffers a nervous breakdown following his three-week stay at Brandham Hall in 1900. He feels completely responsible for what happens to the central characters. There are aspects of Leo's character that certainly contribute to the outcome, his personal weakness and also the pressures of 1900 society are to blame.

Hartley explores the difficult path of forbidden love of Marian and Ted, upper class and working class, against the strict social class background of 1900, England.

In the 'garden of Eden' setting of Brandham Hall, Hartley tells the story through the eyes of an innocent 12-year-old boy, who discovers the importance of class structures in the hot summer of 1900. In the resulting loss of innocence, Leo discovers the true nature of the relationship between Ted and Marian, and the lives of all the people at Brandham Hall are changed forever.

The Pocket Oxford Dictionary defines weakness as a state of being weak; defect, or a weak point.

Leo's primary weakness in this novel is his belief that he possesses magical powers. This originates at school when he casts a 'successful' spell on two school bullies.

"'Have you heard the news?'

'What news?' I had hardly spoken to anybody.

'About Jenkins and Strode.' He looked at me narrowly.

'What is it?'

'They were out on the roofs last night and slipped... they're both in

the San with concussion of the brain.' " (Pg 18)

Because of this incident, Leo truly believes that he can control people and events. During the end of his stay at Brandham Hall, he casts a spell to stop the passionate relationship between Marian and Ted. Ultimately, this personal weakness leads to his own mental breakdown although it does not cause the suicide of Ted.

Analysing the character of...