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In "Through the Tunnel," even though Jerry's mother is not with him during his coming...

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nahlouta | eNoter

Posted November 10, 2012 at 3:01 AM via web

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In "Through the Tunnel," even though Jerry's mother is not with him during his coming of age as he swims through the tunnel, how does Lessing emphasize the transformation in the mother's character throughout the story?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 10, 2012 at 6:19 AM (Answer #1)

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In the exposition of "Through the Tunnel" Jerry's mother worries that she is "keeping him too close," so she gives him permission to go to the big beach where there are large rocks.

She was thinking. Of course, he's old enough to be safe without me....He mustn't feel he ought to be with me  I must be careful.

When Jerry returns from swimming around the older boys, Jerry tells his mother that he wants some swim goggles, and she looks at him patiently and questioningly, but she merely answers, "Well, of course, darling." Similarly, she maintains a respectful distance from Jerry after he has been gone for hours practicing to go through the tunnel; for, when he returns his mother is eating supper and only asks "Did you enjoy yourself?" instead of inquiring where he has been and what he has been doing. However, she does suffer a minor setback when Jerry's nose bleeds the next day; consequently, she insists that he return with her the next day. On the following day, Jerry departs before his mother does in order to practice. 

Still, in four more days, his mother shows no concern, casually stating that they must go home. Jerry decides that he must go through the tunnel the next day, although he is frightened.  And, when he triumphantly makes it through, Jerry rushes into the bathroom when he reaches his house, "thinking she must not see his face with bloodstains, or tearstains on it."

But, Jerry's mother enters the villa smiling as her eyes light up at the sight of her son. She asks the innocuous question, "Have a nice morning?" and Jerry replies, "Oh, yes, thank you."  When the mother, then, notices that Jerry has banged his head, she scrutinizes him, noticing that he looks strained. 

Again, Jerry's mother is worried; she asks how he has hit his head and scrutinizes him. As she grows concerned, Jerry's mother warns herself not to "fuss" because nothing can happen with a boy who can "swim like a fish." So, she prepares herself for a "battle of wills" that never comes. Instead, she has a confident young man. Clearly, Jerry's mother has made the trasition from a smothering mother to one that in her concern is also aware that her son is now a young genrtleman.

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