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Apprentice to Deception: L. P. Hartley and the Bildungsroman

Daniel Williams
From the journal Anglia

Abstract

This essay argues that L. P. Hartley’s novel The Go-Between (1953) fits into the critical tradition of the Bildungsroman in one specific sense: its attention to matters of deception. First, this plot of formation and development involves a necessary apprenticeship in deception: a moral training that has links with everyday practices of concealment in linguistic construal, social etiquette, and interpersonal trust, whose presence I track in the novel. Second, the novel’s framing screens the salient context of its production, the ‘angry decade’ of 1950s Britain. I consider Hartley’s conservative distance from other writing on childhood and youth in the period, suggesting that his representation of deception relates to his critique of social and moral erosion in the postwar period. In the loose vehicle of a Bildungsroman where development is compromised, Hartley presents a novel whose formal structure, in its use of deceptive tropes, affords both its turning away from historical difficulties and its indirect critique of failing morals.

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Published Online: 2016-03-15
Published in Print: 2016-03-01

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