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Having come from the tourists' beach, Jerry is clearly an outsider and foreigner, as well as a younger boy to the older, dark boys who swim from the rocks.
There are, also, innuendos of the racial divide of apartheid, with which Lessing was familiar, having grown up in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). Because of this situation, the boys are probably surprised that Jerry desires interaction with them, and they depart quickly lest some adult appear and accuse them of being "out of place," etc. Perhaps, though, the primary assessment of the older boys is one of disdain for Jerry's juvenile behavior as he shouts what French he knows to the boys and splashes around acting silly.
That the boys perceive Jerry as juvenile is apparent when Jerry calls out to them and they "looked at him idly and turned their eyes back toward the water." Later when he shouts "Look at me! Look!" they "looked at him gravely, frowning" with a similar look to that of his mother when Jerry would fail and she gave him "this grave, embarrassed inspection."
After the boys swim through the tunnel, they gather their things and run off in order to "get away from him." When they rush off, Jerry, left behind, cries. It is then that he decides that he must swim through the tunnel and prove himself.
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