Through the Tunnel

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Through the Tunnel by Doris Lessing

The narrative constructs an eleven-year old English boy, Jerry, who is on holiday with his mother in the South of France. He encounters a group of older, native African-French boys swimming along the beach. When they disappeared by swimming through an underwater passageway to the other side of a large rock in the ocean, he feels left out and rejected. Jerry makes it his goal to swim through the passageway to prove to the older boys his manhood, even if it meant staying underwater for so long that he could drown.

When he does accomplish his goal his reaction was despondent: “He did not want them. He wanted nothing but to get back home and lie down”. Through an existentialist discourse we can interpret his despairing attitude after accomplishing such a feat as he sees the meaningless and pointlessness of it all. He realizes it could have meant risking his life for staying underwater so long, just to prove his masculinity and to be accepted by the older boys.

This text compares to the text Wild Cat Falling, by Mudooroo, by the narrator when he mentions about his childhood how he had tried to fit in with the local white boys by adopting their values and beliefs at the beginning of the novel, but gets alienated and rejected by them. In Through the Tunnel the boy also tries to assimilate with the natives and proves himself to them by swimming through the tunnel. Both characters try to adopt the dominant beliefs and values that are emplaced by the dominant group within each text; In Wild Cat Falling being the white culture and Through the Tunnel being the natives.

In Through the Tunnel through a racial discourse the distinction between the protagonist and the natives are evident. At the beginning of the narrative the boy is with his mother along the beach, he describes his arm as ‘white and naked’ when he notices the native boys, who are described as having ‘nice, tanned brown skin’. The different in skin color shows the...
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