‘Through the Tunnel’ by Doris Lessing

I shouldn’t like this story: its metaphor (a boy swimming through an underwater tunnel as part of a dare and comes out on the other end a changed person, the coming-of-age trope personified) is too on-the-nose. But as soon as the “young English boy” in a foreign land jumps into the water at the end, the effect is overwhelming. Maybe it’s worth pointing out that ever since I nearly drowned as a child, water has terrified me, so this may not seem as anxiety-inducing to you all who enjoy swimming. But there is something about the short, clipped, sentences almost forcing the reader to take shallow breaths, making the panic experienced by the boy actually felt in the prose.

Originally published in The New Yorker, August 1955. Collected in The Habit of Loving, Thomas Y. Cromwell Company, 1957. Story can be found online here

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