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Through The Tunnel


In the short story "Through The Tunnel", Doris Lessing
describes the adventure of Jerry, a young English boy
trying to swim through an underwater tunnel. Throughout the
story, the author uses the third person omniscient point of
view to describe the boy's surroundings and to show the
reader both what he and the other characters are thinking
and what is happening around them. By using this point of
view, the author is able to describe the setting of the
story, give a detailed description of the characters, and
make the theme visible. 

By using the third person omniscient point of view, the
narrator can give the reader a detailed and unbiased
description of his/her surroundings while still retaining
part of the character's view of reality. When the narrator
says "It was a wild-looking place, and there was no one
there" we are given the mother's view of the boy's beach,
which in her opinion is "wild looking". This gives us a
clear picture of the setting. Additionally, the sentence
"He went out fast over the gleaming sand, over a middle
region where rocks lay like discolored monsters under the
surface, and then he was in the real sea - a warm sea where
irregular cold currents from the deep water shocked his
limbs" clearly describes the beach where the boy is
swimming and how it is seen by him. With the addition of
words like "discoloured monsters" and "real sea" we can
tell what the boy's feeling are toward his beach which he
considers scary but at the same time challenging. 

By using the third person omniscient point of view, the
narrator is able to render the characters with information
related both from direct description and from the other
character's revelations. This way, the description remains
unbiased, but at the same time coherent with how the
various characters see it. For example, after the narrator
tells us that "He was an only child, eleven years old. She
was a widow. She was determined to be neither possessive
nor lacking in devotion.", we are able to understand why
the boy is so emotionally attached to his mother and, at
the beginning, unwilling to ask her for permission to go to
his beach and, later in the story, unwilling to let her
know about his adventure through the tunnel. This also
explains why the mother let him go without questions, even
if she was very worried about him. Also, when the narrator
describes the native boys as "big boys - men to Jerry", the
reader realizes that although the boys might be only a
little older than Jerry, he considers them as men and he
tries everything to become like one of them, even if it
means going through the long, dark and dangerous underwater

In this story, the narrator gives us the important clues
that lead us to the theme by letting us know what the
characters think. For example, when Jerry's mother says "Of
course he's old enough to be safe without me", we realize
that the boy is at a point in his life when he is ready to
discover the world by himself. In addition, when his mother
thinks "Have I been keeping him too close? He mustn't feel
he ought to be with me. I must be careful.", we realize
that the author implies that it is wrong to keep him close
to her for too long, and both these examples add to the
notion that the rite of passage must be undergone without
the interference of others. Obviously, this concept
wouldn't have been clear without the view of the mother. In
addition, Jerry perceives swimming through the underwater
tunnel as something that men (the other boys) must
accomplish, and that specific action has to be seen as "the
rite of passage" in this story. 

With the third person omniscient point of view, the
narrator is able to make the theme clearly visible to the
reader, which is that a rite of passage (swimming through
the tunnel) is something that must be experienced by
oneself and Jerry's mother decision to "let him go"
symbolizes a detachment from the family that must occur one
day or another in everybody's life. 
The use of the third person omniscient point of view
provides the author with the means of describing in detail
and without a biased perspective (how the beach looked in
Jerry's eyes), a lot of essential information (what his
mother thinks about letting Jerry go alone to the beach),
the story's setting and its characters. This providies the
reader with a number of clues that help him or her render
the story and all its elements in his/her mind, so that the
theme can be fully comprehended. 



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