In Through The Tunnel by Doris Lessing, a familiar story of a seemingly over-protective mother emerges. However, Jerry's mother is aware of her shortcomings, and Jerry's obvious need to start asserting himself, despite his fairly young age of eleven, and she tries very hard to be "neither possessive nor lacking in devotion," in her attempts to allow her son to develop. The fact that Jerry looks out over the "wild and rocky bay" at the beginning gives the reader immediate insight into the potential thread of the story and Jerry's longing is obvious because, "as he played on the safe beach, he was thinking of it;" wishing he could go in the "real sea." Jerry's mother recognizes the dangers of allowing him to go off alone and her "anxious, apologetic smile" also reveals how conflicted she is looking out over the "wild-looking place." She purposefully stops herself from over-reacting, reminding herself that he is a strong swimmer and she mustn't "fuss!"
As Jerry achieves what he set out to do and manages to overcome his fears of potentially drowning, the reader can understand that this is only the start for Jerry. The effort in making it through the tunnel was enormous and, at one point he even "felt he was dying." However, the event has changed Jerry. He has managed, by himself, to achieve what was almost impossible for him and the enormity of it is his secret. He does not tell his mother as she will only worry more. The reader can predict that Jerry's relationship with his mother will change now. The fact that Jerry's mother expected a "battle of wills" but Jerry is happy to accept her advice shows the beginning of this changed relationship. The reader can also presume that Jerry will go back to the tunnel and try again, improving, and thereby maturing, every time, growing in confidence. The symbolism of the tunnel will always remind Jerry of his passage from boyhood to manhood.