"Through the Tunnel" was first published in the New Yorker on August 6, 1955, and two years later it was reprinted in Doris Lessing's collection of short stories, The Habit of Loving. The story's eleven-year-old protagonist, Jerry, is caught in the difficult position of being neither a child nor an adult. On a winter holiday with his mother in a foreign country, he encounters some older boys swimming. When they disappear by swimming through a tiny underwater passageway to the other side of a large rock in the ocean, he feels left out and rejected. Jerry makes it his goal to find the passageway and swim through it, even though it means staying underwater so long that he could drown. By achieving this goal, he attains a form of independence from his mother.
"Through the Tunnel" is unlike most of Lessing's fiction. Though some of her early stories concern the trials and tribulations of growing up, most of Lessing's works, like The Golden Notebook, concern the confusing and often contradictory roles of women in society. However, the story does illustrate one of Lessing's most common themes: an individual confronting preconceived assumptions about life in an attempt to achieve wholeness.