Conflict. A conflict is a struggle between two forces in a literary work. A struggle that takes place between a character and some outside force is called an external conflict. A struggle that takes place within a character is called an internal conflict. Are both types of conflict represented in this story?
Characterization. Characterization is the use of literary techniques to create a character. The three major techniques used to create characters are direct description, portrayal of characters' behavior, and representations of characters' internal states. When using the latter, a writer reveals directly the characters' private thoughts and emotions, often by means of what is known as internal monologue. Note the use of internal monologue in this story.
The passage from childhood to adulthood is the theme of "Through the Tunnel." When Jerry first arrives on holiday with his mother, they spend their time together on "the safe beach," but Jerry's thoughts are about "the wild bay." What Jerry experiences about himself in that bay will help him to leave behind the familiar world of childhood and to enter the unfamiliar world of adulthood.
In "Through the Tunnel" Lessing uses the techniques of symbolism and setting to bring out the theme. A symbol is something that represents both itself and something beyond itself. In this story, emerging from the "tunnel" may be seen as a symbolic second birth into life as an adult. The setting is the time and place in which the story occurs, together with all the details used to create a sense of a particular time and place. The setting and the descriptions of the wild bay where much of the story takes place suggest danger and challenge in contrast to the safe, perhaps boring, beach where the mothers and young children play and rest.
As you read, make a character chart like the one below and fill in characteristics of Jerry's mother as portrayed by the author. When the chart is complete, note how Lessing has used all three major techniques—direct description, portrayal of the characters' behavior, and representation of the characters' internal states—to develop Jerry's mother.
When have you been determined to accomplish a particular feat, such as climbing a rocky hill or swimming a great distance?