Short Story Analysis

"Through the Tunnel" by Doris Lessing

Critical Biography

Doris Lessing was born on October 22, 1919, in Kermanshah, Persia. She received her first bit of education at a convent school and then at a government school for girls. At age twelve Doris had to leave his studies due to eye problems. She began working at age sixteen. First, she worked as a typist for a telephone company, and later on, as a typist for a South African newspaper, the Guardian. Lessing published her first novel, The Grass Is Singing, in 1950. From then until her death in 2013, Doris published multiple novels and short stories.

"In most of her works Lessing's focus is on marginal characters--people living on the fringes of society, sometimes collected in resistant subcultures--whom she tends to champion as underdogs. Her works display a continuing self-conscious exploration of the limits of genre and form; most of her texts work on metafictional levels" (Barnes, "Doris (May) Lessing").

In "Through the Tunnel" Doris focuses on the "underdog" outlook. Jerry sees himself as the underdog in a group of boys because he can not swim through the underwater tunnel like the rest of them. Doris then goes to show Jerry's transformation through his self-training, and his achievement of his goal.

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"Through the Tunnel" is a short story by Doris Lessing that tells the story of how a young boy named Jerry achieves his goal. While on vacation with his mother, Jerry decides to swim at a part of the beach that has bigger rocks. While he is swimming, a group of foreign kids come over and begin to swim with him. During their swim, the foreign kids discover a long underwater tunnel and swim through it. Jerry determines himself to do the same. He spends the next few days training his lungs so he will be able to hold his breath longer. Once Jerry felt like he was ready, he began his swim through the tunnel. While I the tunnel, he feels like he isn't going to make it, but he continued to push himself. Jerry made it. All of his hard work paid off in achieving his goal.

Analysis of Theme

In the short story "Through the Tunnel", Doris Lessing is trying to tell the reader that if a person sets a goal, makes it personal, and dedicates their time and effort to achieving it, they can conquer it. In the story, Jerry goes from wanting to reach this goal to impress the other kids, to making it personal and wanting to achieve it to prove himself to himself.

Throughout the story, Jerry is trying to prove himself as a more mature young man.

It first shows when he no longer wants to stay at the tourist beach with his mom, but rather intends to go to the rocky and more dangerous side of the beach. Also, when the other kids come over and begin to jump off the rocks into the water, Jerry begins to do the same so they will accept him. Once the other boys jump in the water and swim through the tunnel, Jerry attempts to do the same. At the time, Jerry can't even find the tunnel along the rock wall. Once he realizes he cannot complete the task and that the other boys will no longer accept him, he determines himself to be eventually able to swim through the tunnel.

"He knew he must find his way through that cave, or hole, or tunnel, and out the other side" (Lessing). Jerry training his body to be able to accomplish his goal is not only an example of the theme but again, is Jerry trying to prove himself. At this point in the story, Jerry has let go of trying to be accepted by the other boys, and made this goal personal. He wants to prove to himself that he is mature and can conquer this goal. "All night the boy dreamed of the water-filled cave in the rock, and as soon as breakfast was over, he went to the bay" (Lessing). This quote allows the reader to see how eager Jerry is to subjugate his goal.

In the end, Jerry defeats his ambition and leaves victorious. "He could see the local boys diving and playing half a mile away. He did not want them. He wanted nothing but to get back home and lie down" (Lessing). Jerry had given up on impressing the other boys because impressing himself was victory enough.

Work Cited

Barnes, Fiona R. "Doris (May) Lessing." British Short-Fiction Writers, 1945-1980. Ed. Dean R. Baldwin. Detroit: Gale, 1994. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 139. Literature Resource Center. Web. 9 May 2016.

Lessing, Doris. "Through the Tunnel". PDF File.

"Through the Tunnel." Short Stories for Students. Ed. Kathleen Wilson. Vol. 1. Detriot: Gale, 1997. 245-246. Print.

Colton Wells

"Hours can make you dollars, but ideas can make you millions."