What are the conflicts in Through the Tunnel?

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ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are two major conflicts in this story, one interior and one exterior. Both have to do with the growing maturity of Jerry. Jerry is a young boy when the story opens who has evidently lost his father and whose main companion appears to be his mother. When the native boys trick Jerry and swim through the tunnel, Jerry determines that he will train himself to be able to swim through the tunnel also. This is the exterior conflict. He must train his body to be able to hold his breath long enough and be physically strong enough to do what the native boys had done. Jerry finally succeeds and is victorious in this conflict. However, there is a symbolic meaning to Jerry's accomplishment. This is the interior conflict. Jerry, who up until this time has been considered a boy attached to his mother, Jerry trains and succeeds without his mother's help or knowledge. He is beginning to detach from his mother and learn to fight his own battles. So, when Jerry is physically able to swim "through the tunnel" he has also crossed a barrier into manhood. He has been able to leave the safety of his mother and swim, both literally and metaphorically, into the "wild and rocky" waters of young adulthood.