What are the physical and mental "tortures" Jerry undergoes?What is their significance in Jerry's quest?

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Jessica Pope eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Jerry's physical and mental "tortures" are mostly self-imposed, as he embarkes on a dangerous rite of passage during he and his mother's summer stay on the beach. They are on the coast of a foriegn country. Jerry seeks the companionship of the native boys, most of whom are a bit older than he. His lack of French-speaking ability alienates him and creates an intense loneliness that nearly makes him sick. The torture of alienation and lonileness is furthered by his bawling out at the other boys in English, which they interpret as childlike and immature. Some critics have noted that Jerry's yearning for acceptance within this group of boys belies an internal psychological torture of approaching manhood without a father figure. Jerry's father died when he was younger, thus he faces the precipice of manhood without the aid of a male protector or role model. Jerry experiences mental torturs as he pushes himself to prepare for swimming across the tunnel. His nose bleeds constantly, causing pain, discomfort and uncertainty. Jerry isn't sure he'll be able to train his lungs to hold his breath long enough to swim through the tunnel. The biggest physical challenge comes the day he actually gives it a try. Halfway through the tunnel is is struck with a feeling of intense panic as his lungs almost give way. He feels lightheaded and struggles to keep control of his body. However, Jerry survives these challenges with a new sense of confidence and autonomy. As he and his mother retun home, he notes with pride that he can hold his breath for a at least three minutes. Jerry has entered a new phase of his life equipped with the knowledge that he can overcome great obstacles through perserverance and determination.
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Through the Tunnel

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