Deep Water By William Douglas

Introduction

This lesson is an extract from “Of Men and Mountains” an autobiographical book by William Douglas in which he deals with the theme of overcoming fear. He talks of his childhood fear of water and how he finally overcame it. The childhood experience of being knocked down by the waves at the California beach and the incident in the swimming pool where he was almost drowned by a bully led to a fear of water which haunted him even as an adult. He could not enjoy swimming, fishing or boating like others and finally decided to overcome his fear. His subsequent efforts to overcome the fear show his grit and determination. Thus the message conveyed to us is that one has to overcome the fear of fear.

Summary of Deep Water

Deep Water is about the journey of the author to overcome the fear of water, which has been profoundly rooted in him since childhood. From the age of four, the author started to fear water. It began when he and his father visited California. He visits a beach where he is knocked down by a wave and swept over him. This scares the writer, although the father laughs at this, knowing that there was no danger. However, he is frightened by this experience and develops a fear of water. After that, he experiences another incident when the author is 11 years old, which escalates his fear.

He’s at Yakima’s swimming pool, trying to learn swimming. On a fine day, a bully decides to play a dangerous prank. He pushes him into the deep end of the pool which scares the author. He reaches into the water at nine feet and begins desperately struggling to hold on to something. He also screams for help, but he begins to feel paralysed and now only his heart moves. He, therefore, gives up and prepares himself to die, but wakes up at the pool’s side. The terror that he experiences while drowning, however, never goes away. For many years, it continues to haunt him, even spoiling his future expeditions concerning canoeing, swimming, fishing, and more.

He even goes to Marine Lakes, Columbia, New Hampshire and more, but he can’t enjoy it. Thus, he decides to overcome this fear by hook or crook. He enrols in the swimming class and tries to learn from the instructor. The instructor teaches him a lot of tips and tricks for swimming. He begins by inhaling and exhaling part of it, then he’s been practising it for weeks.

Further, he moves on to the kicking the legs on the side of the pool. In the end, he combines all this with the final move of swimming. Although the author knows how to swim, he is still frightened by water. So, to get rid of fear, he decides to confront it. Does he mock it by thinking about what it really can do? As a result, he plunges into the water and, to his surprise, his fear vanishes. He faced it in a lot of places, and finally, he manages to conquer it.

To sum up, Deep Water Summary, we learn that if we are determined enough and have the courage, we can overcome any fear that comes our way without letting fear overwhelm us.

Gist of Deep Water

  • William Douglas with a great passion for water wants to learn swimming.
  • He had a childhood fear of water because of a particular incident.
  • At the age of 3 or 4, when he was surfing on a beach in California, he was knocked by a huge wave. This set a fear for water within the boy.
  • After a few years when he longed to swim in the “Yakima River”, his mother told him that the river was dangerous and treacherous.
  • The YMCA pool was considered to be the safest place for swimming by William Douglas because it was only nine feet deep and was tiled at the bottom. He started swimming in the YMCA pool by copying other boys.
  • Douglas swallowed water and went straight down to the bottom of the pool.
  • It seemed a long way down. Those nine feet were more like ninety, and before he touched the bottom his lungs were ready to burst.
  • While going down he planned to make a big jump upwards but came up slowly. Tried to shout but could not. Then his eyes and nose came out of the water — but not his mouth.
  • As he went down the pool second time, tried to bring his legs up, but they hung as dead weights, paralysed and rigid. A great force was pulling him under he tried to jump upwards but it was a waste of energy.
  • He screamed but his voice did not go out of the water. Once again, William started going down towards the bottom of the pool.
  • Terror held him deeper and deeper.
  • During the third trial, he sucked water instead of air. The yellowish light was going out. T all effort ceased- relaxed.
  • legs felt like limp and a blackness swept over his brain. It wiped out fear; it wiped out terror. There was no more panic. It was quiet and peaceful.
  • So he ceased all efforts and he became unconscious.
  • He crossed to oblivion.
  • When revived he found himself vomiting beside the pool.
  • He was in grip of fear of water and it deprived him of the joys of canoeing, boating swimming and fishing.
  • Hired an instructor to learn swimming.
  • The instructor taught him swimming piece by piece.
  • He went to different lakes to swim and found tiny vestiges of fear still gripped him.
  • He challenged the fear and swam.
  • Swimming up and down the Warm Lake he finally overcame his fear of water.
  • He realized that in death there is peace and there is terror only in fear of death.

Theme of Deep Water

The story “Deep Water” acquaints readers that it is not death, but the fear of death that scares one and all. We must fight fear or it will consume us. Also, past memories can leave an indelible impact on human minds.

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“Deep Water” deals with Douglas’ childhood fears. A misadventure in the YMCA pool developed an aversion to water in him and he suffered from hydrophobia. The chapter focuses on the fact that childhood fears must never be treated lightly. If they are not addressed, they make deep inroads into one’s psyche. Douglas analyses his fear and finally determines how to overcome it.

Message

The story “Deep Waters” shows us how the writer has conquered his fear of water and learned to swim through sheer determination and willpower. The fear of water had grown since childhood. William Douglas was in a position to conquer his apprehension through sheer determination. The message expressed by this story is that it is not death, but fear of death that induces terror in our minds.

Justification of Title

This excerpt is appropriately entitled “Deep Water”.The protagonist recounts his fear of swimming after an incident in which a wave had washed him away. Another incident that further exacerbated his paranoia was when a bully pushed him into the deep side of the swimming pool, and he almost drowned. But steadily, with determination and strong will, he overcomes his fear. He also took over the services of the teacher. He swam in various pools and lakes to conquer his fears. The title also indicates that the fear of the author was deeply ingrained. In short, this title is fitting.

Short Answer Questions

Q1. Which two incidents in Douglas’ early life made him scared of water?

Ans. When Douglas was three or four years old, he was taken to a beach in California by his father. There, the powerful waves knocked him down, he was almost submerged underwater and got breathless.
Though he hung on to his father, he was very scared. Second, when Douglas was ten or eleven, he was thrown into the deep end of the YMCA pool by a big bully. Despite all his efforts, he could not come to the surface and become panicky. These two occurrences caused Douglas to be scared of water.

Q2.Why did Douglas prefer to go to YMCA swimming pool to learn swimming?

or

Which factors made Douglas to decide in favour of YMCA pool?

Ans. According to Douglas, the YMCA pool was safer than the Yakima River. The river was very deep, and there were many cases of drowning recorded about it. As for the unknown depth of the river, the pool was just two to three feet deep at the shallow end. Although the depth was around nine feet at the deeper end, the drop was gradual, and Douglas could rely on it.

Q3.What did Douglas feel and do when he was pushed into the swimming pool?

Ans. When Douglas was thrown into the pool, he did not lose heart and he intended to drive himself up with all his might. He felt that he would swim to the edge of the pool until he came to the surface. He attempted to come to the surface three times, but, unfortunately, his tactic did not succeed, and he was gripped by fear. His lungs were ready to burst; he was breathless, sucking water instead of air.

Q4.How did his swimming instructor ‘build a swimmer’ out of Douglas? or

How did the instructor turn Douglas into a swimmer?

Ans. The instructor used a systematic approach to turn Douglas into a swimmer. For the first time, Douglas had shed his initial fear of water by letting him cross a pool suspended by a rope tied to a pulley. The teacher held the other end of the rope and relaxed it, tightening it from time to time. Then he showed the narrator to breathe when he was swimming, and eventually the movements of his legs and other strokes.

Q5. How did Douglas make sure that he conquered the old terror?

Ans. Douglas was still not sure of himself after the instructor had trained Douglas in the art of swimming. Now and then he felt tiny traces of terror. So, he went down to Lake Wentworth and swam. Once when fear returned, he confronted it and did not let it overtake him. Eventually, Douglas went to the Warm Pool. He swam there, and fear did not come back to haunt him again.

Q6. What efforts did Douglas make to get over his fear of water?

Ans. After several individual attempts to conquer his fear, Douglas eventually hired an instructor to learn the art of swimming fearlessly. The instructor built a swimmer out of him. But Douglas was not sure of that. To confirm that the fear would not hit him again while he was swimming alone, Douglas wanted to go to Lake Wentworth, New Hampshire. At last, he took his fear away by swimming around the Warm Water.

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Q7. Why was Douglas determined to get over his fear of water?

Ans. The misadventure of having a near-drowning experience left a profound impression on Douglas’ mind. The phobia of water made it difficult for him to enjoy various water sports, such as fishing, canoeing, boating and swimming. He didn’t want to live with this handicap, so he was determined to conquer his fear of water. At last, he was able to overcome his fear of water.

Q8. What did Douglas experience when he went down to the bottom of the pool for the first time?

Ans. When, for the first time, the author went down to the bottom of the lake, those nine feet almost seemed like ninety feet for him. His lungs were ready to burst, but somehow, he gathered all his strength and leapt upwards, trying to hit the surface, but he did not pop up like a cork to the surface, as he had imagined. . He saw nothing but water as he opened his eyes, his hands clutching only water.

Q9. Why did Douglas go to Lake Wentworth in New Hampshire?

Ans. Douglas was not happy with his practice, so he wanted to go to Wentworth Lake. There, as he was swimming in the middle of the lake, the fear returned to him once again but he eventually overcame it, and it made him feel better.

Q10.When Douglas realised that he was sinking, how did he plan to save himself?

Ans. When a big boy threw Douglas into the water, he went down straight. He was totally terrified. Yet, he didn’t lose his wits, and he thought of a plan to make a major leap when his feet hit the bottom so that he could reach the surface. He also felt that he was going to lay flat on the surface and finally swim to the edge of the pool.

Q11. What sort of terror seized Douglas as he went down the water with a yellow glow? How could he feel that he was still alive?

Ans. When Douglas found himself deep into the water with a yellow glow, he was struck by severe fear. The horror ripped him apart, and he did not have any power over it. He was paralysed, rigid and stiff with terror. Even the cries were trapped in his mouth. It was only his throbbing heart that made him aware that he was still alive.

Long Answer Questions

Q1. “I crossed to oblivion, and the curtain of life fell.” What was the incident which nearly killed Douglas and developed in him a strong aversion to water?

Ans. The incident that almost killed Douglas happened when he was ten or eleven years old. He had wanted to learn to swim in the YMCA pool, and thus to get rid of his fear of water. One of them. In the morning, when he was alone in the water, waiting for others, a boy’s major killer threw him into the deep end of the pool. While he had designed a strategy to save himself as he went down, his plan did not succeed. He went down to the bottom and became terrified. He tried hard to get to the surface three times but failed every time. He was almost submerged in the tub. He lost consciousness and thought he was going to die. Even though he was eventually rescued, this misadventure created in him a deep aversion to water.

Q2. Douglas fully realised the truth of Roosevelt’s statement, “All we have to fear is fear itself.” How did this realisation help him brush aside his fear and become an expert swimmer?

Ans. Douglas had witnessed both the feeling of dying and the terror that the fear of death could induce. Strong will, hard resolve, bravery and hard work, as well as honest labour, have prevailed over all of his terrors and fears. The will to live has swept aside all his doubts. In fact, all our fears are just psychological and can be easily overcome if we can control our minds. This realisation allows Douglas’ commitment to learn swimming by engaging the instructor. This mentor slowly and gradually made Douglas a swimmer. His first step, however, was to eliminate Douglas’ fear of water before training him in swimming techniques. When Douglas tried and swam the length of the pool up and down, little signs of his old water fear would return. So, he went to Lake Wentworth, dive on Triggs Island, and swam two miles across the lake to Stamp Act Island. He was truly confident he had overcome his fear of water.

Q3. Desire, determination and diligence lead to success. Explain the value of these qualities in the light of Douglas’ experience in ‘Deep Water.’

Ans. Douglas pursued the terror of water, everywhere he went. He had made a firm decision to get rid of it. He wanted to conquer his fear by his “will.” He hired an instructor who would make him perfect in swimming. The teacher first helped him to push away his fear, and then gave him several exercises besides teaching him to inhale and exhale in the water.

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Practice has been going on together for months, during which his fear has come back to haunt him, but his desire and strong will have made him persist in his efforts. It was only through sheer determination and persistence that Douglas could not only counteract his fear but also become an expert swimmer. He swam around and over the lakes to ensure that his fear of water did not return. He had totally lost his terror. His desire, commitment, and persistence succeeded in eradicating his fear of water.

Q4. How did Douglas develop an aversion to water? or

“…….there was terror in my heart at the overpowering force of the waves.” When did Douglas start fearing water? Which experience had further strengthened its hold on his mind and personality?

Ans. Douglas had developed an aversion to water in his early childhood, and when he was three or four years old, his father took him to the beach in California. The waves had hit him down and washed over him. He’s been buried in water. He was scared, but his dad was laughing. Perhaps this was the moment his fear of water was ingrained in his subconscious. Also, when Douglas was ten or eleven years old, he decided to learn to swim and went to the YMCA pool. Here an incident occurred that finally founded his aversion to water as a great fear. One day, when Douglas was alone at the pool on the shore, waiting for others to arrive, an 18-year-old boy threw him into the deep end of the pool. The following was a nightmarish experience for him. Douglas tried very hard and applied all his experience to the surface of the water, but to no avail. He was rescued, somehow. Thus, after this fearful event, his fear of water was forever rooted in his heart and mind.

Question.5. How did the instructor make Douglas a good swimmer?

Ans. To conquer his fear of water, Douglas eventually agreed to get an instructor to learn swimming. The instructor started working with him five days a week, one hour a day. The tutor had put a belt around Douglas. An open was connected to the belt, which ran via a pulley on the overhead cable. The instructor was at the end of the rope and, along with Douglas, went back and forth around the pool, hour after hour, day after day, week after week. Douglas took a bit of fear on every ride around the lake. It took about three months before the stress was reduced. Then the teacher told him to place his face under the water and to exhale, and to raise his nose and inhale. His instructor made him kick with his legs for weeks. Before he could order his legs at his will. That way, piece by piece, his instructor turned Douglas into a swimmer. When Douglas mastered each piece, his teacher put it together into an integrated piece. As a result, Douglas was able to do so in nearly six months

Extract Based Questions

Q1. From the beginning, however, I had an aversion to the water when I was in it. This started when I was three or four years old and father took me to the beach in California. He and I stood together in the surf. I hung on to him, yet the waves knocked me down and swept over me. I was buried in water. My breath was gone. I was frightened. Father laughed, but there was terror in my heart at the overpowering force of the waves.

a) Who is ‘ I’ here?

Here ‘I’ is the author, William Douglas.

b) When did the aversion to water start?

At his age of three or four this aversion to water started.

c) Where did his father take him?

His father took him to the beach of California.

d) Why was the author frightened?

The author was frightened because he was swept over by the waves while surfing with his father. Next, he held me at the side of the pool and had me kick with my legs. For weeks I did just that. At first, my legs refused to work. But they gradually relaxed; and finally, I could command them. Thus, piece by piece, he built a swimmer. And when he had perfected each piece, he put them together into an integrated whole. In April he said, “ Now you can swim. Dive off and swim the length of the pond, crawl stroke.

a) What did the author do for weeks?

A. For weeks the author’s instructor held him at the side of the pond and had him kick with his legs.

b) Was he able to do?

A. Initially, his legs refused to work, but gradually, they relaxed and later he could easily command them.

c) Who built a swimmer?

A. The instructor built a swimmer out of the author, piece by piece.

d) When did he put together into an integrated whole?

A. When the instructor perfected each piece of the author, he put them together into an integrated whole.

Read More Notes: Deep Water

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