Point of View
The first line of “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”—”Her name was Connie “— signals that it is being told by a third-person narrator. This narrative voice stays closely aligned to Connie’s point of view. The reader learns what her thoughts are, but the narrator provides no additional information or judgment of the situation. For instance, Connie’s harsh appraisals of her sister and mother are discussed: “now [her mother’s] looks were gone and that was why she was always after Connie,” but it is clear that this assessment is Connie’s and not the narrator’s.
Observing the story’s events through a narrator who presents things as Connie sees them allows the reader to identify with her terror as she is transformed from a flirt into a victim. Arnold Friend is presented only as he appears to Connie; the reader learns nothing of his unspoken . . . Read More
The tale of an insecure, romantic teenage girl drawn into a situation of foreboding violence,”Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” presents several themes that arise from the interaction of sharply drawn characters engaged in psychological manipulation.
Appearances and Reality
Connie prides herself as a skilled flirt who has never been in a situation she could not handle. She feels confident when Arnold Friend arrives at her door while she is alone in the house: “Who the hell do you think you are?” she asks. Mistaking him for the type of boy she frequently attracts, she thinks she recognizes him from the sound of his car’s horn, his clothing and physical appearance, and the line of banter with which he attempts to lure her into his car. Both Arnold and Connie contribute to these erroneous first impressions. Arnold assumes a role as a teenage Romeo although he is much older, and Connie accepts his . . . Read More
Fifteen-year-old Connie exhibits the confusing, often superficial behavior typical of a teenage girl facing the difficult transition from girlhood to womanhood. She is rebellious, vain, self-centered, and deceitful. She is caught between her roles as a daughter, friend, sister, and object of sexual desire, uncertain of which one represents the real her: “Everything about her had two sides to it, one for home and one for anywhere that was not home.” She is deeply romantic, as shown by her awareness of popular song lyrics, but she is interested more in the concept of having a boyfriend than the boyfriend himself. She sees the boys who exhibit interest in her primarily as conquests who “dissolved into a single face that was not even a face but an idea.” All of these traits make her vulnerable to Arnold Friend’s manipulation. At first she is flattered by his attentions, unable to realize that he is in fact a . . . Read More
Connie is a fifteen-year-old teenager growing up in suburbia in the 1960s. She is preoccupied with typical teenage concerns: her looks and popular music. She argues with her mother, makes fun of her older, plainer sister, and hangs out with her friends in restaurants, movie theaters, and shopping malls. During these summertime social ventures, she and her friends try to attract the attention of the older high-school boys. One evening, while on a date, Connie notices a boy with black hair and a gold “jalopy”—a beat-up sports car—staring at her.
One Sunday while her parents and sister attend a family barbecue, Connie, contemptuous of family gatherings, elects to stay home and wash her hair. As she sits in the backyard letting her hair dry, she thinks about the boy she had been with the night before. Later, while listening to the radio inside the house, she hears a car coming up the driveway. Thinking that her family would not be home so soon, she goes to . . . Read More
Doris Lessing is known for being a writer whose work affects people. She tackles political issues but refuses to limit herself to being a political writer, and is equally acclaimed for her essays, fiction, and even science fiction dealing with interests ranging from nature to the status of women. “Through the Tunnel,” which is ultimately a story about a boy growing up, seems at first glance to stand apart from her usual concerns.
Lessing was born in what is now Iran in 1919 to a German father and British mother, and then moved with her family to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1924. She embraced Communism and immigrated to England in 1949. Then she returned to Africa in 1956, but was labelled a “prohibited immigrant” because of her political views, and returned to England shortly thereafter. She then quit the Communist Party in protest of Stalin’s atrocities.
Just as Lessing has divided her time between living in England . . . Read More
“Through the Tunnel” was first published by the New Yorker magazine in 1955. Lessing had moved from British-controlled Rhodesia in South Africa in 1949. Six years later, little had changed. Apartheid, a legal system of racial segregation structured every aspect of life for both black and white people there, and racism exploded violently in the United States, Europe and many other parts of the globe. White tourists like those in the story were able to afford vacations, while the native black population of many countries, victims of racist economic exploitation, could generally never afford to take such vacations.
In the context of this racist structure, the interaction between Jerry and the “smooth dark brown” boys takes on greater significance. Jerry is bested by “natives,” an event that contradicts the entire structure of colonial racist supremacy. The British and French, among other nations, justified their colonization of Africa . . . Read More
Point of View
“Through the Tunnel” is written in third-person limited point of view. The narrator describes the feelings of both Jerry and his mother but does not penetrate the thoughts of the local boys. This separation associates the reader more closely with the white tourists who are unfamiliar with the area. By telling the story from the perspective of the English tourists, Lessing heightens the sense of distance between the main characters and the locals Jerry encounters. It also allows the reader to associate more closely with Jerry as he braves the frightening tunnel.
Lessing’s depiction of the setting is characterized by a few vivid concrete details and many evocative emotional descriptions. At first, she describes the bay as “wild and rocky,” then as “wild” and “wild-looking” in contrast to the “safe beach.” The . . . Read More
In Lessing’s story, the eleven year-old Jerry braves an underwater tunnel while he and his mother are on vacation. The tunnel evolves, into an enormous challenge for Jerry, as he deals with his loneliness and his attempts at separating from his mother.
Rites of Passage
Jerry’s beach vacation becomes the site of an intense personal challenge. Jerry must leave his mother at the shore, the shore Jerry sees as “a place for small children, a place where his mother might lie safe in the sun.” He leaves the safety of this nursery-like beach and journeys to the treacherous “wild and rocky” bay and the underwater tunnel. An eleven year-old nearing puberty, Jerry is fatherless and approaching adulthood as the sole male of the family. Throughout the story, the interchanges between him and his mother heighten the tension of the story, but Jerry, except for the one day on the safe beach, independently controls . . . Read More
In Doris Lessing’s “Through the Tunnel,” Jerry, a young English boy, and his mother are vacationing at a beach they have come to many times in years past. Though the beach’s location is not given, it is implied to be in a country that is foreign to them both. Each tries to please the other and not to impose too many demands. The mother, who is a widow, is “determined to be neither possessive nor lacking in devotion,” and Jerry, in turn, acts from an “unfailing impulse of contrition—a sort of chivalry.”
On the second morning, however, Jerry lets it slip that he would like to explore a “wild and rocky bay” he has glimpsed from the path. His conscientious mother sends him on his way with what she hopes is a casual air, and Jerry leaves behind the crowded “safe beach” where he has always played. A strong swimmer, Jerry plunges in and goes so far out that he can see his mother only as a small yellow . . . Read More
John J. McLaughlin wrote that”much of the bulk of [Bradbury’s] fiction has been concerned with a single theme—the loss of human values to the machine.” Nowhere is this more apparent than in Bradbury’s collection of stories The Martian Chronicles. In this collection, as Edward Gallagher has pointed out, Bradbury has “dealt with the initial… attempts to successfully establish a footing on Mars,” chronicled “the rise and fall of the Mars colony,” and “linger[ed] on the possible regeneration of the human race after the devastating atomic war.” Bradbury’s story “There Will Come Soft Rains” appears in this last section. Yet, in this particular story there is not one single human character, it takes place in Allendale, California, not on Mars, machines are plentiful, and regeneration seems very close to impossible.
The story portrays the life, or inner workings, of a house, standing . . . Read More