Through The Tunnel by Doris Lessing Term Paper

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Point of View Essay

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 us 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 us 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", we realize 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 going through the long, dark and dangerous

underwater tunnel. I believe that if the writer would have

used first person point of view, we would only perceive what

that single character is experiencing, thus giving us a limited

and one-sided view of the world.

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 the 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.

In conclusion, it is necessary to use the third person

omniscient point of view because in this story, things must be

described 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) about the story's setting and its characters have to be

given, thus providing 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 comprehended and thought

upon, thus fulfilling the author's purpose of divulging his or

her ideas.

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