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Through the Tunnel - Psychoanalyse

Magda is a university student with a major in English, but her life seems a little bit rough, so she decided to escape from it.

Psychoanalysis is a set of theories about the structure and the workings of the human psyche, as well, as a form of therapy that aims to cure mental disorders by investigating the interaction of conscious and unconscious elements in the mind; the whole concept was founded by the Australian neurologist Sigmund Freud.

If through psychoanalyse, we could read a person, only hearing about their childhood trauma, and answering some important questions like why they deal with panic attacks? Or why do they have so many nightmares about his past and future?

We surely can read literature and discover a character personality, through their actions and the experiences they have been through; but if we interpret the main character of the story as an alter-ego of the author we could decipher the author’s persona and finally understand.

The aim of the psychoanalysis is to uncover the hidden causes of the neurosis in order to relieve the patient of their conflicts” – when talking about psychoanalysis we should bear in mind an important aspect: that our conscious mind (the Ego), repress unsolved conflicts, fears, anxieties and unacceptable desires in the unconscious (also known as the Id).

When we think about literary texts, we should pay attention to those little details that could reveal or explain very important facts; how the story was written, why, and under what circumstances the author decided to tell us the story.

Using intuition it’s a required action when looking, from a psychoanalytic point of view to a text; “Is the nature of the steps, rather than their number?”, the question outline the way you should raise questions when reading someone’s image: not how many steps did they made, but how they made it.

Analysing the short story Through the Tunnel written by Doris May Lessing, we could be surprised at the deep meaning of its.

Being narrated in the third person by an unnamed author, the story focuses on a young English boy, named Jerry and his rough experience, learning and swimming through a tunnel in the sea; this whole struggle could be interpreted as a big step toward maturity, or a coming of age. Shortly, this is about Jerry's journey from childhood to adulthood, with themes as independence, isolation, determination and failure.

Longing at the bay, even though it might be dangerous highlights there, the eleven years old boy, driven by pure curiosity and un indefinite thought of independence, want to explore those waters; seeing that, his mother, a poor widow, start questioning herself, like every protective mother, but those questions reflect on the way she educated him if she was too strict with him. Maybe the loss of her husband made her this way, so she permits him.

The maternal figure is described at the beginning, having very white skin, but at the end of the story we could observe that she had tanned, during the vacation spent on the beach; other symbols that could define the mother as the yellow umbrella, that could outline the idea of protection. Staying on the safe part of the beach, waiting for him, it’s a true sign that her protection will always be there.

The main character, Jerry, after gathering the permission, has a longing feeling for the older boys in the bay, to appreciate him; he looks up, at their swimming abilities, maybe because Jerry is only eleven years old and already seeking respect and endorsement from the older ones: his mom, those boys, it can be interpreted as a sign of growing up.

But rejecting and ignoring him, the boys consider Jerry still a child and not someone of particular interest to them, which is something that could frame in the theme of isolation, as well as the differences of age and language made a big gap between them. His attempts to prove that he can swim through the underwater tunnel, his hard training to hold his breath for mere minutes are signs of determination; even if he endures mental and physical pain as a bleeding nose, dizziness and tiredness, he doesn’t give up.

The theme of failure is explored as well, firstly when Jerry fails to find the tunnel in the rocks, secondly when he didn’t gain the trust and appreciation of those older boys; and lastly are the failed attempts to go through the tunnel.

Symbolically, the whole concept of the tunnel could be interpreted as Jerry’s childhood and the fact that he pushes himself through it, could mirror the fact, that Jerry also pushes his way through childhood and into young adulthood; succeeding to swim through it could mean that the main character has grown as a person. Without any help from the others, battling with himself for achieving this goal, and not bragging about his win to his mother, could be as well signs of maturity.

© 2021 Axinte Magda

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