The main plot points of Doris Lessing's "Through the Tunnel" follow:
- An English boy (Jerry)and his mother arrive on a beach for vacation.
- The boy asks for and receives his mother's permission to go to a wild section of the beach, a section that is unsupervised and not filled with the usual tourists.
- The boy sees a group of older, local boys swimming and diving and awkwardly joins them.
- After a few minutes, the older boys dive into the water and surface on the other side of a big rock. Jerry concludes that there is a tunnel through the big rock, but he does not know where it is. Feeling left out, he childishly spashes and kicks the water and calls out to the older boys to get their attention. They just frown at him.
- The boys dive and swim through the tunnel again and Jerry counts the seconds they are under water: 160 seconds.
- Jerry tells him mother he must have a pair of swimming goggles immediately and once he has them, he finds the tunnel at the base of the big rock.
- Jerry spends the next three days practicing holding his breath under water. His nose bleeds badly at the end of each day and he feels weak and dizzy.
- On the fourth day Jerry's mother makes him stay with her, but on the fifth Jerry goes to his own beach before his mother has a chance to object.
- Two days before his mother and Jerry are scheduled to leave the beach, Jerry, his nose bleeding, almost chooses not to try to swim through the tunnel, but in the end chooses to make the attempt, even though he knows he might die in the tunnel.
- Jerry hurts his back and bangs his head and his lungs feel like they are going to burst, but he makes it through the tunnel. His nose bleeds profusely and he struggles to make it to shore and back to the villa.
- Jerry has matured and no longer needs his mother's attention and approval, and does not argue when his mother is concerned and suggests he should not swim anymore that day.
In the short story "Through the Tunnel" a young boy, Jerry, and his mother are visiting a beach in another country. Some significant events in the short story are as follows. Jerry sees a group of boys native to the country. He wants to socialize with them. He is invited to join them when one waves to him. He wants acceptance in this group of older boys, but there is a language barrier.
The boys go on with their play, but Jerry is still an outsider in the group. Jerry joins the boys who dive from a high rock into the water, but one disappears. He panics and jumps into the water. He realizes that the boy has slipped into some other place under the water. When other boys do the same and then come back he does not know what is going on. This is important because it makes him curious.
He is determined to swim through the tunnel to find out where the boys had gone before. He gets some goggles and practices holding his breath underwater. He impulsively goes through the tunnel. His journey in the tunnel is important because it it very difficult and he thinks he will drown.
He reaches the other side. He is exhausted and does not even care what is going on. He just wants to be able to make it back to his mother. He makes it back and the experience has been a very important one for Jerry. He has proven to himself that he could do it. However, upon telling his mother, her response is simple, and she accidently minimizes the importance of his quest. She just tells him:
"Don't over do it."