In the short story "Through the Tunnel," why does Jerry make himself swim through the tunnel?

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rshaffer eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The short story "Through the Tunnel" is a story about the coming of age of the protagonist, Jerry. With the absence of his father, an overprotective mother, and lack of friends, Jerry needs to prove to himself as well as others that he is capable of accomplishing this dangerous act.  In so doing, Jerry's personal challenges is a "rite of passage" and thus gives him the independence he needs to stand on his own and separate from this overprotective mother.  Accomplishing this physical challenge not only separates him from his mother, but allows him the possibility of male championship because  he has proven that he can perform a manly task such as swimming through the tunnel.