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Point of View Essay

In the short story “Through the tunnel”, Doris Lessing describes the adventure of Jerry, a young English boy trying to swim through an underwater tunnel. Throughout the story, the author uses the third person omniscient point of view to describe the boy’s surroundings and to show us both what he and the other characters are thinking and what is happening around them. By using this point of view, the author is able to describe the setting of the story, give a detailed description of the characters, and make the theme visible.

By using the third person omniscient point of view, the narrator can give us a detailed and unbiased description of his/her surroundings while still retaining part of the character’s view of reality. When the narrator says “It was a wild-looking place, and there was no one there” we are given the mother’s view of the boy’s beach, which in her opinion is “wild looking”. This gives us a clear picture of the setting. Additionally, the sentence “He went out fast over the gleaming sand, over a middle region where rocks lay like discolored monsters under the surface, and then he was in the real sea – a warm sea where irregular cold currents from the deep water shocked his limbs” clearly describes the beach where the boy is swimming and how it is seen by him. With the addition of words like “discoloured monsters” and “real sea” we can tell what the boy’s feeling are toward his beach which he considers scary but at the same time challenging.

By using the third person omniscient point of view, the narrator is able to render the characters with information related both from direct description and from the other character’s revelations. This way, the description remains unbiased, but at the same time coherent with how the various characters see it. For example, after the narrator tells us that “He was an only child, eleven years old. She was a widow. She was determined to be neither possessive nor lacking in devotion.”, we are able to understand why the boy is so emotionally attached to his mother and, at the beginning, unwilling to ask her for permission to go to his beach and, later in the story, unwilling to let her know about his adventure through the tunnel. This also explains why the mother let him go without questions, even if she was very worried about him. Also, when the narrator describes the native boys as “big boys – men to Jerry”, we realize that although the boys might be only a little older than Jerry, he considers them as men and he tries everything to become like one of them, even going through the long, dark and dangerous underwater tunnel. I believe that if the writer would have used first person point of view, we would only perceive what that single character is experiencing, thus giving us a limited and one-sided view of the world.

In this story, the narrator gives us the important clues that lead us to the theme by letting us know what the characters think. For example, when the Jerry’s mother says “Of course he’s old enough to be safe without me”, we realize that the boy is at a point in his life when he is ready to discover the world by himself. In addition, when his mother thinks “Have I been keeping him too close? He mustn’t feel he ought to be with me. I must be careful.”, we realize that the author implies that it is wrong to keep him close to her for too long, and both these examples add to the notion that the rite of passage must be undergone without the interference of others. Obviously, this concept wouldn’t have been clear without the view of the mother. In addition, Jerry perceives swimming through the underwater tunnel as something that men (the other boys) must accomplish, and that specific action has to be seen as “the rite of passage” in this story.

With the third person omniscient point of view, the narrator is able to make the theme clearly visible to the reader, which is that a rite of passage (swimming through the tunnel) is something that must be experienced by oneself and Jerry’s mother decision to “let him go” symbolizes a detachment from the family that must occur one day or another in everybody’s life.

In conclusion, it is necessary to use the third person omniscient point of view because in this story, things must be described in detail and without a biased perspective (how the beach looked in Jerry’s eyes), a lot of essential information (what his mother thinks about letting Jerry go alone to the beach) about the story’s setting and its characters have to be given, thus providing the reader with a number of clues that help him or her render the story and all its elements in his/her mind, so that the theme can be comprehended and thought upon, thus fulfilling the author’s purpose of divulging his or her ideas.

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