Through the Tunnel

by Doris Lessing

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What words in "Through the Tunnel" clarify Jerry's conflicts, motivations, requests, and longing?

Quick answer:

Jerry’s conflict and motivation are clarified through the words “craving,” “happy,” “proud,” “supplication,” and “pleading.” His longing to be accepted is shown in the words “asking for help with his eyes,” and his shame at not matching their skills as well as behaving foolishly is seen in the words: “he felt desperate and ashamed of himself. He knew that he was a fool.

Expert Answers

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Words in “Through the Tunnel” that clarify Jerry’s conflicts and motivations include “craving,” “happy” and “proud,” and “shame.” Words that indicate requests and longing include “supplication” and “pleading.” When Jerry sees the group of older, foreign boys, he quickly feels drawn to them. His strong desire to know them and be accepted into the group is “a craving that filled his whole body.” This desire is expressed through looks and gestures. When one boy smiles at him, Jerry smiles back; his look expresses his request for acceptance. He joins them on the rocks, “smiling with a desperate, nervous supplication.”

Although they do not understand each other’s languages, Jerry begins to feel accepted, so his motivation is somewhat fulfilled and the internal conflict diminished. Jerry “was happy. He was with them.” When they seem to admire his dives, he was “proud of himself.”

Jerry continues to feel conflicted when he realizes that the boys are not fully accepting him because he has not matched the feats they accomplish in the water—one of which turns out to be swimming through the tunnel. His longing to be accepted, which he silently asks of them, is connected with his shame at not matching their skills as well as behaving foolishly. He felt “a pleading grin on his face like a scar that he could never remove.”

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