‘The Go-Between’ Questions

Introduction to this page

Many of these questions on L.P. Hartley’s novel, ‘The Go-between’, encourage students to develop their knowledge of the text.  However, there are also a number which also require the higher order skills of interpretation and analysis of language.  You might also like to see my selected quotations page.

Whole text questions

How does Hartley convey the importance are the weather and the seasons in ‘The Go-between’?

The Prologue

Note dates and details of now/then.

What are your impressions of the diary?  Note the book’s physical details: Zodiac illustrations; schoolboy language.  What is the diary’s power?

What were Leo’s dreams and ambitions as a schoolboy?

List the most important features of Leo’s 12 year old character, as shown here.

What do you learn of the 64 year old Leo?  How has he lived his life?

Summarise the debate between the old and the young Leo, in your own words.

Chapter 1

Describe Leo’s parents: their class values; personalities and behaviour.

List Leo’s magic spells.  How many are successful?

Describe the preparations Leo and his mother make for his visit to Brandham Hall.

Chapter 2

Give brief details of the Hall. Do you feel there is any symbolic importance in Leo’s actual view of it?

Describe the five members of the Maudsley family.  (You might like to have a page for each and gradually build up their character profies as you read the novel.)

Comment on the belladonna.

Chapter 3

Days, dates, temperatures.

Details of Leo’s clothes – what is wrong with them?

What do you notice about Marion’s offer to take Leo to Norwich?  What does  Leo not see about her offer and behaviour?

Chapter 4

Why is Norwich ‘a turning point’?

Find the ‘flight’ imagery: why is this so relevant?

Why is the green of Leo’s suit significant?

Why  is the heat so important to Leo?

How does Leo connect Brandham Hall with the zodiac?

What are Leo’s first impressions of Trimingham?  Are these sustained?

What are your impressions of (1) Ted? (2) Denys?  Select quotations to support your views.

Is there some sense of Leo’s growing awareness of his body/maturity/masculinity?

Describe Ted’s and Marion’s reactions to each other.  Why are these significent?

Chapter 5

What are Leo’s first impressions of Trimingham?

Comment on the way that Marcus and Leo talk to each other.

Chapter 6

What does Leo learn about the Trimingham family from the memorial tablets in the church?

Summarise Leo’s inner debate about right and wrong.  Describe the nature of Leo’s moral values.

What are Leo’s initial impressions of Trimingham?  How do yours differ?

Comment on Leo’s observation that Trimingham is ‘a guest in his own house’.

Chapter 7

How does the heat affect Leo, physically and mentally?

What are Leo’s impressions of Ted at the farm?

What is the purpose of Ted’s chatecism.

Describe Leo’s reaction to Ted’s suggestion that he become a messenger.

Describe Marian’s behaviour on Leo’s return to the Hall.

Chapter 8

What does Leo hear at the picnic?

What is the nature of the clash between Marian and her mother?

What does the coachman reveal about Ted?

What does Leo not describe in his letter to his mother?

What is the significance of the rising mercury?

Chapter 9

Summarise the events from Tuesday 17th to Friday 20th.

What is the symbolic significance of the rising temperature?

List the possible messages Leo invents.

Why does Leo not want to know the real content of the messages?

What problems does Marcus’s recovery pose for Leo?

Contrast the two boys’ view of ‘spooning’.

Trace Leo’s internal debate about the rights and wrongs of reading the unsealed letter.

Chapter 10

How does Leo react to the idea that Marian and Ted are in love?

How does Ted put pressure on Leo to continue acting as messenger?  Is it fair pressure?

What does Ted tell Leo about ‘spooning’?

What bargain is agreed between Ted and Leo?

Chapter 11

Describe Leo’s feelings of loyalty to the Hall’s team.

What evidence of strain is there between Marian and Trimingham?

What are the differences between the two teams?

Describe the Hall’s innings.  How does Leo feel?

Chapter 12

What happens in the village’s innings?

How does MArian react to the game?

What happens to Leo’s loyalties and why?

Describe Leo’s catch.  What is is symbolic significance?

Chapter 13

Describe Leo’s state of mind and feelings at supper.

What is the impact od Ted’s singing?

What is the impact and significance of Leo’s concert performance?

What do Leo and Marcus talk about on their way home?

Chapter 14

Why does Leo think that his role as postman is now over?

In what ways does Leo think that he has ‘beaten’ Ted?

What is the significance of the Fifth Viscount?

What do you observe of Trimingham’s values and beliefs when he tells Leo about the Fifth Viscount.

Chapter 15

Remind yourself of chapter 15 .  Find the passage (perhaps p170 in your edition) beginning: ‘He was sitting on a chair…’ and ending at the end of the chapter.    How does Hartley capture the mind of a child?  How and with what is this contrasted?

What attracts Leo to the rubbish dump?

Describe the confrontation between Leo and Marian.  How do you judge Marian here?

Why does Leo cry?

What is the symbolic meaning of the state of the river?

Summarise Leo’s conversation with Ted.

What are your impressions of Ted here?  (Anything new?)

Chapter 16

Comment on the content and style of Leo’s letter to his mother.

Describe Marcus behaviour at tea.

How does Leo persuade himself that going home is the right thing to do?

Chapter 17

What new information does Marcus reveal to Leo about Marian and his mother?

How does Leo react to the news about the bicycle?

How does Leo ‘strike back’ at Marian and Marcus?

What has happened to the belladonna?  How is this symbolically significant?

Why and how does Leo lead Marcus away from the outbuildings?

Summarise Leo’s unspoken worries and dilemmas?

Chapter 18

How have Leo’s feelings for Marian change?

How does the feeling of ‘freedom’ manifest itself in everyone’s behaviour?

Why is Leo happier?

How does Leo interpret Ted’s letter?

What do Trimingham and Mr Maudsley say about Ted?

Why does Leo disapprove of the Teniers picture?

Chapter 19

Why does Leo feel so happy?

Summarise the conversation Leo has with Ted.

Consider the importance of the symbolism and the hints of the futurein this chapter.

Chapter 20

How does Leo’s mother reply in her letter?

How soes Leo react?

How and why does the mood at Brandham Hall alter when Mrs Maudsley recovers?

Summarise Leo’s conversation with Marian.  What do you observe here that Leo misses?

Chapter 21

What does Leo fear?

How does Leo apportion blame i.e. who is at fault?

What steps does Leo take to ‘finish things off’?

What powers does Leo’s spell draw on?

Chapter 22

How significant is the change in the weather?

Describe Leo’s perception of his real self.

What is the significance of the two ties?

Comment on Leo’s new true personality.

Chapter 23

Describe Mrs Maudsley’s confrontation with Leo in the garden.  What does she suspect/know?

Describe Leo’s birthday tea.  Identify the grotesque elements.

Look at the visual detail of the penultimate paragraph and comment on its significance.


Give a brief account of the events that followed the discovery.

What were the effects of Leo’s spell?

What missing pieces does the adult Leo add to the incomplete picture?

What prompts Leo’s decision to return to Brandham Hall?

Is the end of the novel a satisfactory conclusion?  Give reasons to support your viewpoint.


Questions provided by Roy Watson.  We have been unable to discover their original source.

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