Referring to the prologue characterize Leo old and young The prologue to 'The Go-between' tells us a lot about the protagonist Leo's character both in his younger days at school when he was around 13 years old and how he is at present when reminiscing at around 64 years of age.
Leo is looking in a box that contained many items from his school days; he then comes across the diary that contains a multitude of memories. He looks at it but it 'refused to disclose its identity'. It is as if there are some memories that were forgotten because he blocked them out. Leo examines but 'does not want to touch it'.
Although he tells himself this is because he wanted to challenge his memory we soon realize that it is because he is afraid of what the diary and what it contains. The diary had an 'enervating power, and spoke its message of disappointment and defeat.'
The diary has a negative energy and will remind him of some painful memories of the past.
Leo's behaviour towards the diary shows us that the current (older) Leo is a man dogged and burdened by his past, his life has been blighted due to events in the diary. We also see that most of his acts in his life 'were born of will, not inclination'. He has lived the life in a particular way because he felt he had to rather than he wanted to, he has not the freedom and the full life he wanted.
Leo starts to remember what the diary used to represent as he looks inside the first few pages. We start to learn about the character of the young Leo and the sentiments he was experiencing in his period of adolescence.
It was the year 1900, the first year of the century and he had felt it 'winged with hope' and the very signs of the zodiac represented 'a plentitude of life'. At the time they represented a magical, exciting power and a 'tingling sense of coming fruition.' The young Leo was full of optimism at the start of the century. Then we are reminded of the current Leo's feelings, how the magic of those symbols were 'no longer potent' for him. He has lost that optimism due to the events earlier in his life.
The young Leo was not looking at the negative side of life at all; this is reflected in the way he described the signs of zodiac. Even a scorpion carried its 'terrible pincers with a gay, heraldic air'. The year 1900 for him had an almost 'mystical appeal' - it was the dawn of a 'Golden Age'.
Leo displayed a very creative and active imagination - he envisaged vividly the various characters in the zodiac and what life could be like in the new century.
The young Leo was at the period of adolescence when he was beginning to become more self-aware and delve into life's mysteries. He looked up to the symbol of the Archer as he represented strength and sturdiness and Leo wanted to think of himself 'as a man'.
There are hints that the young Leo is also starting to experience sexual feelings towards women. This is displayed with his feelings of great admiration towards the Virgin symbol.
The young Leo loved the elegance of his diary and felt that all entries in it should live to its splendour - they should record something 'worthwhile'. There is an element of snobbery in his personality coming from a middle class family though perhaps not quite upper middle class. He uses words like 'pater and mater' and he wants to use elaborate words like 'vanquished'. He also displays a slight disdain with the Water-carrier symbol - 'I could not help conceiving of him as a farm-labourer or at best a gardener'.
In his school days the young Leo was struggling to make an impression on others and create an image for himself. Although he was secretive about his diary he also wanted to show off the contents. Like most people he wanted popularity and to be liked by all his peers.
Leo's reaction to being bullied tells us more about his character. He did not write home or tell any of the masters - his attitude was that he 'had brought it on himself'. Leo was not the strongest of people mentally or physically and is shown to be rather submissive. He did not want to be too outrageous in his actions or behaviour but abide by the 'schoolboy code'. Leo had 'uncritically accepted' all the school's standards.
However, all this did not mean that Leo was not going to try and get revenge on those whom had bullied him - he tried to achieve vengeance with his 'curses'. This defiant side of his younger self is an aspect that the current Leo misses - he feels 'a certain envy of the self of those days', back then he felt he had 'no notion of appeasement'. This emphasizes the fact the current Leo is regretting and annoyed at what has become - now he gives in too easily.
Due to the so-called success of his curses Leo became recognized - 'I was quite a hero' he recalls. The other students had not liked Jenkins and Strode either and moreover, it appeared to them that he could actually do magic. Leo began to build to a reputation for himself and became a 'recognized authority' on black-magic and code-making, and people thought of him as a 'wag' and a 'master of language. At this time Leo felt he had won a battle - this was a time of happiness.
When the old Leo has reached the last entry in the diary, it was 11:30 - 'five minutes later than his habitual bedtime'. This adds to our characterization of the current (older) Leo as a creature of habit. He has a mundane routine in his life - this routine stems from the fact that he is scared of life and emotions.
Evidently, Leo now has low self-esteem, he has given up the fight - he has 'a working arrangement with life'. He looks back in regret he feels that perhaps if he had done things differently maybe his life would not be the sham it currently is. He did not have the resilience to cope with life and now he is an emotional cripple.
Leo regrets how he behaved in the past - 'Why have you grown up such a dull dog?' he questions himself. He has become a librarian - when he was about 13 years old he had been so creative and energetic, he has wasted his capabilities and powers that he once had.
Leo feels that he had been let down by the twentieth century - at one time he had been so expectant and optimistic of it. He is alone there is no 'Virgin, with her shining face' and does not have much of a life.
Leo feels that in his younger days he should have been wiser and not trusted and looked up to people so much. At that time he didn't admit to himself that those people like Ted Burgess and Triningham were his enemies and they betrayed him. Instead he had blamed himself - if he hadn't done this maybe his life would have been better.
The current Leo is trying to 'resurrect' himself. He is going to re-live those moments which destroyed him and perhaps thinks he can rehabilitate himself - 'Try now, try now, it isn't too late', perhaps there is hope.
Overall, the young Leo shown in the prologue was an adolescent discovering life - full of imagination and optimism for the twentieth century. He wanted to have people's admiration and for a period he managed to achieve this and build himself a worthy reputation.
The old Leo looks back with regret on his past and is annoyed at how his life is mundane and a bit failure. He had expected so much.