Through the Tunnel

by Doris Lessing
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Briefly explain how significant language features/textual conventions shaped your response to "Through the Tunnel."

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The third-person omniscient point of view of this story helps to shape our understanding of it by exposing us to both Jerry's and his mother's internal conflicts. We see that Jerry's mother is encountering the struggle that all parents whose children reach a certain age must face. She wonders how...

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The third-person omniscient point of view of this story helps to shape our understanding of it by exposing us to both Jerry's and his mother's internal conflicts. We see that Jerry's mother is encountering the struggle that all parents whose children reach a certain age must face. She wonders how much freedom to give him and how to keep him safe while still granting him some independence. Jerry, on the other hand, wants badly to grow up—as we see in his encounter with the older boys at the wild bay—but he feels a sense of loyalty and a responsibility toward his mother. The third-person omniscient narrator is able to provide this information that we might not otherwise have, and it allows us to quickly determine that this is not just a story about a boy at the beach.

Further, the imagery employed by the story foreshadows the danger Jerry is in as well as his relative immaturity compared to the maturity required to make good decisions at the "wild bay." The rock is "rough [and] sharp" and the water is "stain[ed] purple and darker blue," like a bruise. Rocks under the surface "lay like discolored monsters" as "irregular cold currents" shock him. This imagery is frightening and painful, and it connotes the dangers and lack of predictability associated with growing up. 

Moreover, the juxtaposition of this imagery with that of the "safe beach" where his mother relaxes helps us to identify the story as a coming-of-age for Jerry. She was "a speck of yellow under an umbrella that looked like a slice of orange peel." It was a "place for small children" as opposed to his bay, where the "older boys—men to Jerry" dive. We understand these places to be symbolic of childhood innocence on the one hand, and maturity, danger, and instability on the other.

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