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Comparison: Through the Tunnel by Doris Lessing and Araby by James Joyce


James Joyce’s story in Araby was written in 1914. The story sketches the glamor of new love and the end of innocence throughout the story. The story is narrated in first person. The boy, the narrator, is mocked by mere narcissism. Thus, he comes to the realization that what he was told about romance and how he views it is more than imaginary.

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The story starts by the boy picturing the North Richmond Street; the street where he lives. The first part of the story embraces the recurrence of religious symbols. Perhaps, the author uses this technique to capture the beginning of the narrator’s fall from grace or loss of innocence. This is illustrated when the boy says “the wild garden behind our house contains a central apple tree and a few straggling bushes” (Müller 12).

The boy also helps us to understand that the first tenant of his house was a priest; this symbolizes the author’s allusions to the loss of innocence theme. James also uses the blind street to demonstrate where the narrator lives and the blindness of the boy “North Richmond Street, being blind…” An unoccupied house of two stories stood at the blind end, detached from its neighbors in a square ground (Kennedy et al 540). The narrator hides and stares at a friend’s sister “… I lay on the floor in front of the parlor watching her door…… I ran to the hall, seized my books and followed her” (Kennedy et al 539).

On the other hand, Through the Tunnel, a story by Doris Lessing, tells the story about Jerry, an 11-year old British boy. The story describes Jerry as a determined boy, ready to prove to himself that he can do the impossible; that is, to swim down where the older boys swim and ‘emerge as a men’ (Scribd).

Jerry with his widowed mother, at first, feels insecure, isolated, and becomes, even more so, with the emergence of the group of boys, who frequent the beach. The boys make Jerry feel unwelcome and isolated. Despite his feelings of isolation and the impression with which he is being judged, he wants more than anything to be part of the group, “to be with them, of them, was a desire that filled his whole body” (Scribd).

To attain something one has to go through challenges that might call for precise qualities. Thus, both boys in the stories share fear and passion, isolation and different approaches in developing the theme of rite of passage. These qualities allow them to handle challenges and achieve their goals, transiting from innocence to experience. This paper will discuss these works in great detail.


There are various similarities present in the two stories: fear and passion. In Through the Tunnel, the first time Jerry went to the tunnel he was afraid there were octopus’s tentacles and immense masses of seaweed, so he retreated. Fear engulfed him to retreat, but he had a passion to swim through the tunnel (Scribd). Similarly, fear and passion are also reflected in Araby (Bascara 100). The young boy hides and stares at a friend’s sister.

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We are told, “Every morning, I lay on the floor in front of the parlor watching her door…the doorstep my heart leap”. “…he would walk until they walked together but would always pass her like he was not interested” (Kennedy et al 539). Clearly, in every trip the boy takes, he ought to succeed in it, but fear and passion hold him. The boy therefore lives with fear in his head and satisfied at just looking at her without gaining courage to reveal his intention (Bloom 73).

Both novels raise the issue of isolation. In Through the Tunnel, Jerry feels isolated among the group of boys, who are frequent visitors to the beach. The group makes him feel unwelcome and they are not enthusiastic about welcoming “outsider” to the beach “(Scribd). When they see and recognize him as a visitor, they proceed to ignore him.”

In Araby, the boy did not like Dublin, a place he lived and the people that owned it England. He says, “I lingered before her stall, though I knew my stay was useless, to make my interest in her wares seems real..” Further, this is also pictured in his other account “… gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with grief and anger” (Kennedy et al 542)

Another similarity represented in the two stories is how the boys manage their challenges to achieve their goals. In Araby, like any spiritual search, there are different tribulations and trials the narrator has to suffer for his beloved. As the hour comes and passes, his uncle has not arrived (Bloom 23). The boy becomes uncomfortable. His aunt comforts him by saying that he ought to abandon the night to the lord (Kennedy et al 541).

However, the boy sustains his bravery and requests at the late hour when his uncle returns. The boy is sure that many things will happen when he gets there. It will be like heaven or spiritual awakening. Like in Araby, Jerry in Through the Tunnel is determined to swim through the tunnel. To achieve this, he immediately lays down strategies on how to succeed. He begins learning how to control his breathing “he lies effortlessly on the bottom of the sea” with a huge rock in his arms and counts (Lessing 309).

Though he experiences challenges like bleeding through the nose, he does not relent. He spends the next two days exercising his lungs as if everything depended on this. When his nose bleeds again, his mother pleads with him to rest with her on the beach, he obliges and does this for a day and finally, the next morning he goes to the bay by himself without asking (Holleran 343).

Although both stories share some similarities, they differ in what each person has to achieve for their rite of passage. In Araby, the story renders a tale of a young Irish boy who is consumed with his friend’s sister, but that is not enough to give him courage to express it in words. According to Brown (127) Jerry in the Through the Tunnel, it is a story of a young British boy who is on a holiday under a watchful eye of his mother and the wild bay which provides experience for him.

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Another contrast illustrated in both stories is that Jerry, in Through the Tunnel, despite the challenges involved, manages to succeed in swimming through the channel. As illustrated having completed the critical swim ‘’… his heart quieted, his eyes cleared… he can see the local boys diving and playing nearby..” the fact that his eyes are described as “cleared “seems to indicate that something about him has changed, that he views the world with clarity “(Lessing 314).

In other words, he achieves holding his breath under water and manages to hold his temper and understands what is extremely essential, he celebrates quietly knowing that he has succeeded. In Araby, the boy is disillusioned. Thus, he fails to achieve his goals. For example, he did not have enough money to buy a present or a gift to the girl “observing me, the young lady came over and asked me did I wish to buy something……her voice was not encouraging” (Kennedy et al 542). Perhaps, the boy did not have enough opportunities such as money to succeed in his accomplishment. Besides, the boy was intimidated by men and women because they were British and him an Irish (Bloom 24).

The stories of Araby and Through the Tunnel are interrelated thematically. They demonstrate the rite of passage from innocence to experience. The experience achieved by the boys at every episode is so strong; it transforms the boy’s lives and helps them see life in a different perspective.

For example, in Through the Tunnel, Jerry manages to swim through the tunnel, by doing this; he achieves skills on how to hold breathe under water and knows how to manage his temper (Lessing 314). In Araby, the boy has a different experience altogether. The boy says “gazing up into darkness… I saw myself as a creature… by vanity… with grief and anger (542). Perhaps, this suggests frustrations in his attempt to get a gift for the girl.

The stories deduce that when an individual face a certain experience, he/she progress in subtle habits or sometimes they may shatter and become incapacitated emotionally, spiritually and mentally. These experiences are illustrated in both stories. However, through unique qualities they possess, they are able to navigate through them to win their individual goals.

Works Cited

Bascara, Linda R. World Literature. Quezon City: Rex Bookstore, Inc., 2003. Print

Bloom, Harold. James Joyce. New York: Infobase Publishing, 1999. Print

Brown, Julia. “Doris Lessing.” American Author (2001):125-135. Print

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Holleran, Karen. Through the Tunnel. Short Stories for Students. Ed Kathleen Wilson, (1997):242-45. Print

Kennedy, X J, Dana Gioia and Thomas Hernacki. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. New York: Custom Pub., 2010. Print

Lessing, Doris. Dictionary of Literary Biography (1999):308-16. Print

Müller, Sarah. Adolescence, Love and Sex in James Joyce’s Short Stories “Araby” and “An Encounter.” Munich: GRIN Verlag, 2009. Print

Scribd. Through the Tunnel. 2011.

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StudyCorgi. (2020, May 7). Comparison: Through the Tunnel by Doris Lessing and Araby by James Joyce. Retrieved from


StudyCorgi. (2020, May 7). Comparison: Through the Tunnel by Doris Lessing and Araby by James Joyce.

Work Cited

"Comparison: Through the Tunnel by Doris Lessing and Araby by James Joyce." StudyCorgi, 7 May 2020,

1. StudyCorgi. "Comparison: Through the Tunnel by Doris Lessing and Araby by James Joyce." May 7, 2020.


StudyCorgi. "Comparison: Through the Tunnel by Doris Lessing and Araby by James Joyce." May 7, 2020.


StudyCorgi. 2020. "Comparison: Through the Tunnel by Doris Lessing and Araby by James Joyce." May 7, 2020.


StudyCorgi. (2020) 'Comparison: Through the Tunnel by Doris Lessing and Araby by James Joyce'. 7 May.

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