Through the Tunnel

by Doris Lessing
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How does Jerry learn about the tunnel in the short story "Through the Tunnel"? How does he prepare himself to meet the challenge of swimming through it? 

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Jerry is the eleven-year old protagonist of Doris Lessing's short story "Through the Tunnel." It is a coming of age story as the boy challenges himself physically. He's an English boy who is on vacation with his mother, probably in Spain. The reader can assume he's not in England because the boys he encounters in the bay are speaking a foreign language. When he sees them diving from one section of the rocks and emerging on the other side, his interest is stimulated. They are obviously using an underwater tunnel to swim from one side to the other.

He makes it his goal to swim through the tunnel during his short vacation. He watches the boys and counts to himself to see how long it takes them. He counts to 160, which Jerry believes to be about two minutes. Everyday he goes to the bay and practices holding his breath. Even though he fears what might happen to him if he makes the underwater swim, he is obsessive about his training. He submerges himself with a large stone and attempts to sit on the bottom of the bay a little longer each time. On his first attempt he can only get to 50 and then experiences a bad nose bleed. He is persistent, however, and practices relentlessly until he knows he only has a few days left in his vacation.

He ultimately succeeds in his quest to swim the tunnel despite almost losing consciousness and again bleeding from his nose. 

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