The conflict in Lessing's "Through the Tunnel " is man vs. self and man vs. nature, and it is directly related to the conflict of the story. The boy is Jerry, who is eleven, and he is the only child of a single mother. While on vacation at a...
The conflict in Lessing's "Through the Tunnel" is man vs. self and man vs. nature, and it is directly related to the conflict of the story. The boy is Jerry, who is eleven, and he is the only child of a single mother. While on vacation at a beach, Jerry notices there is a safe side and a "wild" side. He has been to this beach with his mother before. This year, he wants to explore the wild beach alone rather than stay next to his mom on the safe beach. His mother sees this is the case and asks if he wants to go to the other beach. The text reveals his inner conflict as follows:
"Contrition sent him running after her. And yet, as he ran, he looked back over his shoulder at the wild bay; and all morning, as he played on the safe beach, he was thinking of it."
Eventually, Jerry wins this internal conflict about whether to leave his mom for the wild bay or not. When he finally ventures alone to the wild bay, Jerry faces the next conflict, which is man vs. nature.
First, his manhood is challenged by a few native boys who can swim through a cave, or tunnel, under the water that leads to another side of the bay. Jerry decides he will learn to hold his breath for two minutes in order to accomplish the same task as the native boys. He buys goggles, practices holding his breath, and spends four days diving down to the bottom of the bay near the entrance of the tunnel. His nose bleeds tremendously, and he suffers exhaustion beyond belief, but he continues to practice for the day he will swim through the tunnel. When the day does come that Jerry swims through the tunnel, he meets with unforeseen complications inside and struggles to improvise and persevere in order to save his life. Fortunately, he succeeds and conquers the tunnel.
The setting, therefore, is directly associated with the conflict because it is Jerry vs. himself and nature. Without the wild bay or the tunnel, Jerry would not be able to claim his rite of passage by making an independent goal and achieving it. In fact, he never runs to his mother and complains about his bloody noses; nor does he completely tell her about his success. He only tells her that he can hold his breath for two minutes. He never discusses his personal conflict between himself and the tunnel. Without the wild bay or the tunnel, the opportunity to overcome this personal conflict or to find success never would have been available to him.