How well does Doris Lessing describe the characters, events and setting in her short story, "Through The Tunnel"?

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Doris Lessing does a fabulous job with descriptive imagery in her short story "Through the Tunnel." The story is written from a a narrator's point of view, but also that of the eleven year-old boy Jerry. Hence, one description that combines both narrator and Jerry's perspective is when he notices his mother's forearm. At the beginning of the story, he notices that his mother's arm is "swinging loose, [and] was very white in the sun. The boy watched that white, naked arm, and turned his eyes. . ."(para. 1). Later, after a few days on holiday, Jerry notices that his mother's arm is tan. This is a great use of perspective because that part of his mother's body must be at his eye level. This forces the reader to notice what Jerry would notice from his height as well as from his age.

Another example of great descriptive technique is when Lessing describes the bay where Jerry has a life-changing experience. First of all, there is a soft, safe beach where his mother lies in the sun, then there is the bay which is more adventurous to a young boy's heart. The best description of this beach is when Lessing writes about how Jerry finds the bay. He is out swimming farther than he had before and he sees his mother on her beach and the rocky bay opposite of her. "There she was, a speck of yellow under an umbrella that looked like a slice of orange peel." The colors used here are cheerful and represent his mother and the safety surrounding her. On the other hand, the bay was rocky and dangerous, the perfect spot for a boy to go exploring. Then he discovers some native boys who Lessing then describes as examples of what Jerry desires to be; brave swimmers who hold their breaths for minutes at a time in order to swim through a dangerous underwater tunnel.

"They began diving again and again from a high point into a well of blue sea between rough, pointed rocks. . . They were big boys--men, to Jerry." The native characters are described as the complete opposite of what Jerry is so that the reader can understand his desires of growing into a man in this great bildungsroman tale.

The best descriptions, however, are found during the climactic event when Jerry finally goes through the tunnel and comes out a man. He hits his head, he feels underwater vegetation snarling at him, and his goggles fill up with huge amounts of blood during the process. Secondary students are usually amazed when they first hear or read the descriptions of the nose bleeds and water-pressure suffering that Jerry goes through. Lessing does a great job in creating suspense, mystery and intense situations as Jerry becomes a man.

Read the study guide:
Through the Tunnel

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