Deep Down Inside
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are”.
~ E.E. Cummings
The drive to master something often represents an emotional milestone as much as a physical accomplishment. In Doris Lessing’s “Through the Tunnel”, what at first appears to be a young boy’s desire to impress other boys with his new ability to swim through an underwater tunnel, turns out to be his self-actualization journey from childhood to adulthood. In a foreign country but a familiar beachside town, only-child Jerry, spent vacations on the “safe” beach with his widowed-mother. On this vacation Jerry was drawn to the “wild-looking…inlets of sharp rock”. There he tried to befriend a group of older boys. “To be with them, of them, was a craving that filled his whole body”. When the boys began diving off rocks through an underwater tunnel, Jerry attempted the same. Lacking the local language and the diving skills, Jerry shouted “Look at me! Look! And he began splashing and kicking in the water like a foolish dog”. The boys were not impressed. “They looked down gravely, frowning…(and) swam back to the shore without a look at him”. Jerry cried at their disapproval, but was determined to dive the tunnel. He purchased goggles to see and found a rock to weigh him down. He endured scrapes, bloody noses, and nausea. Just days before they left, he succeeded. One might think that with this new skill Jerry would seek out the boys, but it was more than about the boys.
“After a time, his heart quieted, his eyes cleared, and he sat up. He could see the local boys diving and playing half a mile away. He did not want them. He wanted nothing but to get back home and lie down”.
Jerry’s ability to be independent and his ability to push through the pain in order to grow were part of his own emotional growth from a boy to a man and symbolized by the passage through the tunnel. This was never about learning to dive. This was about learning to be a man. “It was no longer of the least importance to go to the bay”.
What appears on the “surface” to be driving someone’s actions is often much “deeper” than it appears.