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 bay’s wildness explains both the mother’s concern and the boy’s excitement. Later, as Jerry nears the bay, the reader is introduced to the bay as Jerry views it. Introducing the setting through Jerry’s perspective primes the reader for the intense swim through the tunnel.
In “Through the Tunnel” there is a dynamic tension between the domestic and the wild; between risk and safety. This tension emerges in the first paragraph of the story, when the “wild and rocky bay” is contrasted with the “safe beach.” Repeatedly this difference is stressed, as Jerry leaves the safety of his mother’s beach bags and pale skin for jagged rocks. Jerry himself is an intermediate figure between wildness and safety. He risks his life, but does so while wearing swimming goggles, which are symbolic of both his inexperience and his need for protection.
Kathleen Wilson (Editor), Short Stories for Students: Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, Volume 1, Doris Lessing, Published by Gale, 1997.