What is Doris Lessing's purpose in writing "Through the Tunnel"? 

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Doris Lessing's short story "Through the Tunnel" is a tale of an eleven-year-old boy experiencing a "rite of passage." For, in the beginning of the narrative, Jerry is his mother's child, accompanying her to the beach as they are on holiday. He swims in the water before this beach and can see her as "a speck of yellow under an umbrella." In fact, when he is in the water for some time, Jerry watches for her,

Yes, she was still there, a yellow spot under an orange umbrella.

He swims to shore to pester her for some swim goggles. After she purchases these, Jerry returns to the area where he has been swimming as there are older native boys there who swim through a long, dark tunnel. And, when the big boys scoff at his childish attempts for attention, Jerry feels he, too, must swim through the underwater tunnel in order to prove that he is not just a child. Thus, Jerry's triumphal passage through the long dangerous tunnel after he perseveres, even when he feels he is dying, proves that he is no longer a mere boy.

"Mummy...I can stay under water for two minutes--three minutes, at least."

When his mother is impressed, but tells him he should not "overdo it," Jerry decides "It was no longer of the least importance to go to the bay" because he has already proven himself.

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Through the Tunnel

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