Through the Tunnel Questions and Answers
by Doris Lessing

Start Your Free Trial

What do the local boys look like, and what impression do you get of them from their behavior?

Expert Answers info

Philip Arrington eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2018

write1,295 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Business

The short story "Through the Tunnel" by Doris Lessing tells of an eleven-year-old English boy named Jerry, who goes on vacation with his mother. He and his mother have a congenial and respectful relationship, but the boy wants to do something adventurous on his own.

He heads down to a "wild and rocky bay," and while he is swimming, he meets up with some local boys. It turns out that the local boys have a practice of diving into the water and swimming through a dark tunnel under a large rock. At first, Jerry cannot even find the tunnel. Later, after the boys are gone, Jerry locates it, practices holding his breath, and makes the swim through the tunnel all alone. For him, it is a sort of rite of passage that he attempts to prove his courage and maturity.

The local boys are described as "of that coast." The location of the beach is not given. The boys are "burnt smooth dark brown," which means they are not so dark naturally but have been deeply tanned because of the time they spend out in the sun. They are so big compared to Jerry that they seem like men. From this, we can infer that they are teenagers or young adults. They can all swim and dive well and hold their breath for a long time underwater, so we can assume that they are in good physical condition. They speak a language that Jerry doesn't understand, and none of them seem to be able to speak English. Based on this, we can guess either that they are not very educated, since young people in many parts of the world learn English as a second language, or that they are in a country where the study of English is not emphasized.

The overall impression that we can understand of these boys is that they are not hostile to foreigners like Jerry, but neither are they friendly. They are indifferent. It also seems that they judge their companions based on their physical prowess, and when Jerry cannot go through the tunnel like they can, they make the decision to abandon him.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial