‘Through The Tunnel’ by Doris Lessing

Lessing, Doris 1955

Through The Tunnel by Doris Lessing, 1955

The magic trick:

Telling the story from the child’s point of view and not from an adult narrator who is looking back on childhood

We have so very many stories on this website featuring a child protagonist told from the perspective of the character now older, wiser and looking backward. I’m not knocking it. It is an excellent way to tell a story. But it is notable when you get a story like this that features a child narrator without the wisdom of age affecting the narration. Here, we get the story of Jerry’s focused mission to demonstrate maturity and independence truly from the child’s point of view. And that’s quite a trick on Lessing’s part.

The selection:

Jerry dived, shot past the school of underwater swimmers, saw a black wall of rock looming at him, touched it, and bobbed up at once to the surface, where the wall was a low barrier he could see across. There was no one visible; under him, in the water, the dim shapes of the swimmers had disappeared. Then one, and then another of the boys came up on the far side of the barrier of rock, and he understood that they had swum through some gap or hole in it. He plunged down again. He could see nothing through the stinging salt water but the blank rock. When he came up the boys were all on the diving rock, preparing to attempt the feat again. And now, in a panic of failure, he yelled up, in English, “Look at me! Look!” and he began splashing and kicking in the water like a foolish dog.

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