What are some struggles that happen in the story "Through the Tunnel"?  

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liesljohnson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Through the Tunnel" is not a story for anyone who's claustrophobic or afraid of drowning! It's an intense tale full of danger that's made all the more frightening by its peaceful, happy backdrop. Let's take a look at the individual struggles:

1. Jerry and his mom try to get along well with each other. This is an interpersonal struggle, a struggle to maintain a good relationship. It's a bit awkward. Here's his mom worrying about how she doesn't understand what he wants to do, followed by Jerry feeling guilty about how anxious she is:

"'Why, darling, would you rather not come with me? Would you rather---' She frowned, conscientiously worrying over what amusements he might secretly be longing for, which she had been too busy or too careless to imagine. He was very familiar with that anxious, apologetic smile. Contrition sent him running after her."

2. Jerry struggles to fit in with the older boys who are also swimming at the beach. He desperately wants to be acknowledged and accepted by them:

"To be with them, of them, was a craving that filled his whole body. He swam a little closer; they turned and watched him with narrowed, alert dark eyes. Then one smiled and waved. It was enough. In a minute, he had swum in and was on the rocks beside them, smiling with a desperate, nervous supplication."

3. There's also a struggle to communicate with the other kids. Jerry speaks both French and English, and he struggles to speak meaningfully with the other boys:

"[The other boys] were of that coast; all of them were burned smooth dark brown and speaking a language he did not understand."

4. The main struggle is Jerry's desire to copy the other boys' behavior by swimming down underwater through a tunnel in the rock. This is an extremely dangerous thing to do, and it becomes Jerry's obsessive quest throughout the rest of the story. He succeeds, but it takes a lot out of him mentally and physically--his nose bleeds, his lungs ache. Here he is as the struggle finally ends:

"He lay face down, gasping. He could see nothing but a red-veined, clotted dark. His eyes must have burst, he thought; they were full of blood. He tore off his goggles and a gout of blood went into the sea. His nose was bleeding, and the blood had filled the goggles."