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Through the Tunnel

In: English and Literature

Submitted By nzila
Words 1303
Pages 6
Everyone at some stage in life wants to grow up. We all act try to act mature at some stage in life so as to belong to a certain group of people or to impress other people. We are forced to change our behaviors so that we can belong to a certain clique of friends. However, When growing we undergo various challenges that we have to overcome. Through the Tunnel is a short story written by a famous author called Doris Lessing. It’s a rite of passage short story about an 11 year boy who is growing up.
The main protagonist Jerry in the short story is an 11 year old boy who the author presents to us a ‘loner’ (Lessing,1990). He faces the challenge of swimming through a tunnel in the rock and belonging to a certain clique of friends. He finally manages to swim through the tunnel through persistence and determination. The main theme brought out in the story are; for you to grow up you have broken free by being determined and persistent. By swimming through the tunnel Jerry breaks free from his loneliness and doubt of his potential. Throughout the story Jerry is depicted to us as a loner and makes no mention of friends. He always hangs around his mother who makes her feel accepted; they are very protective over each other since there’s no one else in their lives. He manages to break free from his loneliness and becomes friends with the other boys which make him feel accepted. By passing through the tunnel Jerry builds his confidence and he starts to believe that he can achieve anything as long as he is determined and keeps trying.
The conflicts captured in the short story are person verses self, person vs. person and person vs. nature. Jerry had to converse with himself if he was capable of swimming through the tunnel. He also interacted with other people when he tried to prove himself how tough he was to the other boys. He competed against nature by swimming past the current despite his nose bleeding and being in extreme pain.
The Tunnel
Symbolism is the use of a place, a thing or a person to represent something other than the thing itself. For example a dove can be used to represent peace. Tunnel in most cases is used to symbolize a journey from one phase to another. For example, of a place of darkness to a place of light and self-confidence. At the end of every tunnel there have been always some light which symbolizes hope and a new beginning. Equally to every journey, there’s a symbolic result as the outcome.
In the short story by Lessing.Most of the places in the story are symbolic of Jerry’s rite of passage from boyhood to manhood. The 1st symbolic place that readers’ come across in the story is the safest beach where Jerry spends time with his mother. In this case Jerry’s mom acts as a protector to his son, the safe beach is a symbol of shielded life of a kid. As time passes by Jerry discovers another wild beach, where he meets a group of native boys. This wilder beach is discovered without the company of his mother, which represents Jerry’s desire to break away from his shelter.
The native boys at the beach are able to swim through the tunnel and Jerry is not which makes him feel isolated and out of place. Once he manages to swim through the tunnel, he has been able to move beyond the wild beach and left his mother behind to join the local boys. Due to the position of the tunnel relative to his mother and the other boys and the challenges Jerry overcomes to swim through the tunnel, the tunnel is a symbol of a major challenges one faces when growing up. It symbolizes a journey from being a young boy to a man. Jerry knows that if he fails to pass through the tunnel he will miss the chance to prove himself and he will feel defeated.
The tunnel can also represent a birth canal. Just as an infant evolves and journeys outward, so does Jerry evolve through the tunnel. As Jerry moves through the small dark/strange space into a new world which is the other side of the tunnel, physically this shows that he is metaphorically being reborn to adulthood/manhood.
The Other Kids
The local boys represent the driving force in Jerry’s decision to work hard in training himself so that he can swim through the tunnel. If Jerry never saw the local boys swim through the tunnel, he would have never desired to go through the tunnel and there would be no more complicated.
According to Jerry he views the native boys as “men” and they are symbolic of what Jerry ought to be one day. The older boys swarm around and hauled themselves as they swam through the dark tunnel. To Jerry this represented manhood, maturity. Jerry’s reaction to the way the older boys were swimming symbolizes childhood, the difference between men and boys.
The Breathing Exercises
Jerry knew at first he would not be able to swim throughout the tunnel without taking a breath of air, thus he did physical exercises that resolved this issue. Despite his nose bleeding and the extreme pain, Jerry proved to himself his capability. The breathing exercises symbolize Jerry determination to break loose from his childhood and be independent. When Jerry struggles to hold his breath, he does it without the help of his mother. This is crucial since Jerry doesn’t have a manly figure in his life; it means he has to use his own independence to get things done.
The breathing exercises also symbolize the conflict of man verses nature. Jerry has not only had to swim through the tunnel, but also overcome his problem of breathing underwater. He has to overcome these challenges so as to achieve his goal and start his journey to manhood. The breathing exercises show how the 11 year old kid is hardworking, persistent and focused to accomplish his goal and nothing can stop him from achieving his goal, not even the nose bleeding and extreme pain. The exercises are also a symbol of perseverance; the 11 year old was always positive and firm about his decision to swim through the tunnel. He practiced holding his breath tirelessly without giving up. Jerry pushed his body past its limits so as to achieve his set goal. It also shows the extend one can go to fit in with other people.
Jerry never asked for permission to go to the wild beach by himself the following day. This setting assists in creating the theme by using contrast. The short story mentions the safe beach and the wild beach which are symbols of his mother and Jerry beginning to gain independence. The safe beach represents the protective nature of Jerry’s mother while the wild beach signifies Jerry growing up and starting to gain independence. Jerry and his mom teach us the significance of being independent when growing up. I really enjoyed the short story Through the Tunnel since it’s a well written rite of passage story that teaches children and parents very valuable messages conveyed by Jerry and his mother. Some of the messages are that when a child is growing up they need to break free and have their own space, gain independence and when growing up one needs to be determined and persistent.
When you are really determined to achieve something, you can overcome fear and any obstacle in your way. When you focus on something you can achieve it despite the challenges.
Lessing, Doris. Through the Tunnel. Mankato, MN: Creative Education, Inc, 1990. Print.…...

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