Through the Tunnel

by

Doris Lessing

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Mother Character Analysis

Jerry’s mother is a widow on vacation with her son. She spends her vacation days sunbathing and relaxing at a crowded beach while Jerry goes off to explore the rocky bay. Midway through the story, Jerry’s mother buys him a pair of goggles, but otherwise doesn’t interact with her son again until the story’s end, when she remarks on various changes in his physical appearance—a gash on his head, his pale skin—as they eat lunch in their villa. She hesitantly allows her son a greater degree of independence than she has in the past, worried that perhaps she dotes on him too closely, and by the end of the story seems to understand that Jerry has established a healthy sense of independence from her.

Mother Quotes in Through the Tunnel

The Through the Tunnel quotes below are all either spoken by Mother or refer to Mother. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Childhood and Maturity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Through the Tunnel published in 1980.
Through the Tunnel Quotes

She was thinking, Of course he’s old enough to be safe without me. Have I been keeping him too close? He mustn’t feel he ought to be with me. I must be careful.

Related Characters: Jerry, Mother
Related Symbols: The Rocky Bay
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:

When he was so far out that he could look back not only on the little bay but past the promontory that was between it and the big beach, he floated on the buoyant surface and looked for his mother. There she was, a speck of yellow under an umbrella that looked like a slice of orange peel. He swam back to shore, relieved at being sure she was there, but all at once very lonely.

Related Characters: Jerry, Mother
Related Symbols: The Rocky Bay
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:

Again his nose bled at night, and his mother insisted on his coming with her the next day. It was a torment to him to waste a day of his careful self-training, but he stayed with her on that other beach, which now seemed a place for small children, a place where his mother might lie safe in the sun. It was not his beach.

Related Characters: Jerry, Mother
Related Symbols: The Tunnel
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Through the Tunnel LitChart as a printable PDF.
Through the Tunnel PDF

Mother Character Timeline in Through the Tunnel

The timeline below shows where the character Mother appears in Through the Tunnel. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Through the Tunnel
Childhood and Maturity Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
The story begins with Jerry and his mother on vacation from their native England to a coastal town in an unnamed foreign country.... (full context)
Childhood and Maturity Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Jerry eyes move from his mother’s white arm, then to the rocky bay, then back to his mother. Noticing that he... (full context)
Childhood and Maturity Theme Icon
Solitude vs. Community Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
The next day, Jerry’s mother, whose white arm has noticeably reddened since the day before, asks outright if he’s tired... (full context)
Childhood and Maturity Theme Icon
Solitude vs. Community Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
A sense of guilt at the idea that his mother will be all alone at the beach almost forces Jerry to follow her again. Readers... (full context)
Childhood and Maturity Theme Icon
Solitude vs. Community Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
...water of the rocky bay and drifts far enough out that he can see his mother in the distance, just a small dot on the crowded beach. On his way back... (full context)
Childhood and Maturity Theme Icon
Solitude vs. Community Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Jerry gets his mother to buy him a pair of goggles,  determined to swim through the tunnel on his... (full context)
Childhood and Maturity Theme Icon
Jerry returns to the villa, where he finds his mother eating her dinner. That night, Jerry dreams of the tunnel and returns to it immediately... (full context)
Childhood and Maturity Theme Icon
...underwater training and also continues to get nosebleeds at night. Worried about his well-being, his mother insists that she join him at the crowded beach. Following her orders, Jerry accompanies his... (full context)
Childhood and Maturity Theme Icon
One morning, Jerry’s mother tells him that they will be leaving to go back home in four days. This... (full context)
Childhood and Maturity Theme Icon
Jerry reaches the villa before his mother returns from her daily trip to the beach. He immediately falls asleep. He wakes up... (full context)