All Quiet on the Western Front
Exam Narrative

Exam Literary Analysis

Through the Tunnel

A literary analysis


Willing is not enough. We must do. – Bruce Lee.



On the day before they left, he would do it. He would do it if it killed him,” the distance between life and death can be very small; furthermore, in the short story “Through the Tunnel,” Jerry learns that your life isn’t something to mess around with. Jerry sees older kids having fun in the water, and holding their breath for as long as they can while swimming through a long, dark and grimy tunnel. Jerry wants to do this as well, but he has a struggle with himself to try to reach a good enough lung capacity before his vacation ends and he’s forced to go home. “Jerry exercised his lungs as if everything, the whole of his life, all that he could become, depended upon it.” He does this by spending his days on vacation holding his breath underwater for as long as he can before needing rise to the surface again.

     While preparing for the tunnel, Jerry counts his time underwater to give himself an idea of how much time he will have underwater before it becomes a concern. On Jerrys last day on vacation he decided that he is ready to seriously risk his life to swim through the tunnel. “Soon he was clear inside. He was in a small rockbound hole filled with yellowish­gray water.” Through most of his time in the tunnel his doesn’t have any issues with holding his air, but he had headaches and the top of the tunnel was spiky and slimy. 115 seconds into the tunnel he began to feel the toll that the lack of air had on him. 

A hundred and fifteen, a hundred and fifteen pounded through his head... He felt he was dying. He was no longer conscious. He struggled on in the darkness between lapses into unconsciousness. An immense, swelling pain filled his head, and then darkness cracked with an explosion of green light. His hands, groping forward, met nothing; and his feet, kicking back, propelled him out into the open sea.

     After passing through the tunnel, Jerry sees the importance of life, he sees the importance that his actions have on him and his future, and he sees the importance of perseverance. If he never persevered through the tunnel—where he bled out, his lungs cramped, and his head pounded with pain—he would have died and left his, already widowed, mother alone in the world. His mother gave him the freedom to do what he wanted during their vacation, and he took that chance to almost get himself killed. The one saving grace, is that Jerry didn’t tell his mother of this after it happened. “His mother was coming back. He rushed to the bathroom, thinking she must not see his face with bloodstains, or tearstains.” Dying is something that everybody will experience at point or another in their life; however, Jerry’s perseverance is what pushed that time back as far as he could