Method and Myth in L. P. Hartley’s The Go-Between

Betty Jay


Critical readings of The Go-Between often relate its depiction of sexuality, class and gender to the symbolism with which the author is frequently identified. Such connections can be further illuminated by considering T.S. Eliot’s notion of the “mythical method”. Hartley’s narrator seems to make extensive use of a personalised version of the “method” advocated by the poet. Mapping his world onto the Zodiac, Leo’s use of the “mythical method” enables him – at least for a short while – to order and control his experience. Initially offering him the mastery he craves, this method eventually renders Leo more vulnerable to the dramas that unfold around him. Once the integrity of his mythic structure is threatened, Leo’s own disintegration is assured. Given his absolute faith in the Zodiac, Leo comes only belatedly to recognise a different mythic parallel at work in his life. This other doubling sees Leo’s fate twinned with that of Icarus. Eventually acknowledged by Leo himself, this figure demonstrates Hartley’s on going concern with both method and myth and therefore suggests that his narrative – like its central protagonist, can offer the reader a critical perspective on the workings of each.

Key words: Mythical method; Mythic doubles; Icarus; Zodiac; Mercury; Mastery; Structure; Order; Hierarchy; The fall


Mythical method; Mythic doubles; Icarus; Zodiac; Mercury; Mastery; Structure; Order; Hierarchy; The fall


Blum, Virginia L. (1989). The Go-Between Child: Supplementing the Lack. In Vera J. Camden (Ed.), Compromise Formations: Current Directions in Psychoanalytic Criticism (pp. 99-112). Kent, OH: Kent State University Press.

Brooks-Davies, Douglas (1997). Introduction. In Douglas Brooks-Davies (Ed.), The Go-Between (pp. 11-29). London: Penguin.

Eliot, T. S. (1975). Ulysses, Order and Myth. In Frank Kermode (Ed.), Selected Prose of T. S. Eliot (pp. 175-78). London: Faber and Faber.

Hartley, L. P. (1997). The Go-Between. London: Penguin.

McAdams, Dan P. (1993). The Stories We Live by: Personal Myths and the Making of the Self. New York: Guildford Press.

Spears Brooker, Jewel (1994). Mastery and Escape: T. S. Eliot and the Dialectic of Modernism. Amherst, Mass.: University of Massachusetts Press.



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