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Symbolism in "Through The Tunnel" by Doris Lessing

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Symbolism in "Through The Tunnel" by Doris Lessing essay

In “Through the tunnel” by Doris Lessing, it talked about a person life, from childhood to adulthood along with the struggles you would meet. In Through the tunnel, Doris Lessing uses various symbolism to describe a person’s transition from their childhood to adulthood.

  • Safe beach: the surface of a society
  • Wild beach: the inner part of the society
  • Tunnel: root of the society.

In “through the tunnel” Doris Lessing had symbolized the society, first when you stepped in everything seems fine and at get harder and you come face to faces with challenges and problems. At some point in life, a person realizes that there are just so many problems that prevent them from advancing or having a good time in life. When those times come, they have to put in some effort, try a little harder, or become open minded to adverse ideas and work to advance forward. The results of hard work can leave a person proud, making them feel like they are becoming more independent, making them feel like they are stepping into adulthood. The Main character, Jerry for Through the Tunnel demonstrated this determination by nonstop practice and finally he was able to swim the tunnel to fit in with the others. By using different symbolisms In Through the Tunnel, Lessing demonstrates the hardships that people can eventually face in their lives, and how they can overcome those hardships, transitioning them from childhood, to adulthood.

The initial setting of the story takes place at the safe beach. The safe beach is a place without danger; it’s calm, peaceful, and where Jerry can feel protected and sheltered, watched over by his mom. The “speck of yellow under an umbrella that looked like a slice of orange peel” (Lessing) that’s on the beach makes him feel safe. Yet, many times he looked back, “relieved at being sure she was there, but all at once lonely” (Lessing) showing that he is still dependent on his mother, but still curious of the world beyond. The safe beach is very alike to one’s childhood phase. When one starts out, they are safe from all the danger there is in the world, and are still innocent to the harsh truths of the real world. However, after a while, one gets bored, and they want more. They start to wonder what’s beyond the walls of their safety net, wonder if the world out there could offer them more, and wonder if they can wander farther and farther from where they began. Slowly they move on, moving away from the innocence of childhood, into the unknown territory of adulthood.

On the other hand, the wild beach is like adulthood. Unlike safe beach, the wild beach is filled with danger and mystery. The water itself represents danger, “stains of purple and darker blue” (Lessing) on the surface of the rocks, the rocks themselves are like “discolored monsters”, threatening in the depths of the water. The ocean, warm yet dangerous, contain “irregular cold currents from the deep water” (Lessing) which “shocked Jerry’s limbs”. The words used, like “monster”, to describe the rock give readers a very unpleasant feeling, and the color along the beach gives readers a feeling of uneasiness. Along with the wording used for the water itself, which describe the water in a dark way. In this beach Jerry is independent and no longer protected by his mom, he is now alone and responsible for himself. Then, there is the tunnel, symbolizing the challenging transition from childhood into adulthood. These challenges are often hard, painful, scary, and require one’s willpower to overcome that fear. In the story, Jerry talked about “His lungs were beginning to hurt” and all the other hardship he’s being through. The experience of adulthood itself is represented by the wild beach, in a sense that the adult world is filled with danger and is very unpredictable. One is usually more independent when they are adult, which is shown in the way that Jerry is now by himself on the wild beach. At the very end, Jerry has now transitioned from his dependent childhood, to his independent adulthood.

Starting from the calm beach, which in the story is the embodiment of childhood, shows, that often times when growing up, life can be calm and peaceful, as if it is a sunny, stormless bay. In a person’s childhood, they are usually watched over and are most protected, just like Jerry was on the safe beach. The tunnel in real life, represents the hardship within the transition, after they come out they are now more mature and independent, and are fully merged into adulthood.

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Symbolism In “Through The Tunnel” By Doris Lessing. (2019, September 13). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 4, 2022, from
“Symbolism In “Through The Tunnel” By Doris Lessing.” GradesFixer, 13 Sept. 2019,
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