How does Doris Lessing use characterization and setting in the development of her theme in "Through the Tunnel"?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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"The Leap" is a rite of passage story that has as its theme the search for identity. Eleven-year-old Jerry, who is on vacation with his mother, decides to swim away from her one day and try to join an older group of boys. But when he acts silly to get their attention, they dive deep into the water and emerge on the other side of a large rock. Uninterested in him, they swim away from Jerry. Because of their rejection, Jerry decides to prove to himself that he can do what these older boys have done, so he dives down in the deep water to discover where they have entered an underwater tunnel. However, he is unable to see clearly under the water. So, he asks his mother for goggles, and she willingly complies, purchasing them for Jerry, determined to be neither possessive nor lacking in devotion.” With these goggles, he is able to ascertain the opening of the tunnel. And, they seem to transform Jerry:  “It was as if he had eyes of a different kind—fish eyes that showed everything clear and delicate and wavering in the bright water.” 

After this discovery, Jerry must practice holding his breath so that he can develop his lung power. Eventually, he attains this strength, dives down, and passes through the tunnel successfully on his own.  “He was at the end of what he could do” and feels he has reached adulthood. In fact, Jerry does not even tell his mother all that he has accomplished; instead, he just informs her of how long he can hold his breath.

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