Plot Jerry's relationship with his mother. 

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Through the Tunnel" is a rite of passage story; therefore, Jerry begins in an immature state and reaches a level of maturity which he has not had before.

  • Without a husband, Jerry's mother probably feels more protective of her son than a married woman would, yet she is "determined to be neither possessive nor lacking in devotion."
  • While Jerry senses the loss of his father, he feels he should be more attentive to his mother, acting from an "unfailing impulse of contrition--a sense of guilt about his father's death?--a sort of chivalry."
  • Jerry and his mother seem devoted to each other in their solitariness at the beach. For example, when Jerry first swims out in the ocean a ways, he searches for his mother on the beach.
  • When he swims out and tries to interact with the native boys, Jerry goes farther from his mother, still, the boys perceive him as childish when he splashes and acts silly to get their attention. Jerry is perplexed because when he acts this way before his mother, she usually laughs.
  • He checks to see that his mother is yet on the beach. Moreover, he swims back to her.
  • But, when he swims to the shore, he is insistent that he needs swim goggles. He is beginning to assert himself.
  • Unbeknownst to his mother, Jerry returns to the large barrier rock where the older boys have swum and, wearing the goggles, he searches for the gap through which they have passed earlier.
  • He discovers a gap and panic fills him, so he swims to shore. But, he plans his strategy for passing the through "that cave" later.
  • So, he practices holding his breath, and for the next two days, he exercises his lungs to the point that his nose bleeds at night.
  • On the third day, Jerry does not what to accompany his mother to what he now considers a beach for children. "It was not his beach." He is maturing.
  • On the fourth day, Jerry does not ask his mother for permission to go to what he considers "his beach." Instead, he leaves early before his mother could think about the risks he might be taking.
  • Jerry watches the boys go through the tunnel and counts to 160.

A curious, most unchildlike persistence, a controlled impatience made him wait.

  • Jerry goes underwater and checks the tunnel; later, he sits by the clock in the villa, holding his breath repeatedly until he calculates that he must hold his breath for two minutes.
  • When Jerry's mother tells him they will return home in four days, he vows that he will get through the tunnel, even if it kills him. Clearly, he feels he must prove that he is no longer a little boy. 
  • With only two days left before their departure, and despite a nosebleed the day before, Jerry goes secretly to the tunnel. Although nervous, he puts on his goggles and dives down.
  • Despite the pulsing in his head, Jerry perseveres and makes it through the tunnel. "Victory filled him" as he knows that he must persevere or he will drown; Jerry thinks very clearly and maturely.
  • When Jerry surfaces and sees the other boys. "He did not want them" because now Jerry feels himself the equal of the older boys.
  • Once he makes his way home, Jerry responds very nonchalantly to his mother's inquiries, making light of the knock on his head.
  • Jerry's mother looks at him and his concerned, but realizing that Jerry is different now, she tells herself, "Oh, don't fuss."
  • Jerry casually informs his mother that he now can stay under water for two to three minutes, and she tries to sound casual, "Can you darling?" But, she still tries to coddle him some, saying he "shouldn't overdo it." 
  • However, Jerry does not argue as he would have done. "It was no longer of the least importance to go to the bay." He knows now that he is a young man; he has completed his right of passage.
Read the study guide:
Through the Tunnel

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