Deep Water is an excerpt taken from William O. Douglas’ book “Of Men and Mountains”. It reveals how as a young boy William Douglas nearly drowned in a swimming pool. He talks about his fear of water and thereafter, how he finally overcame it.
Important Questions with Answers
Q. What is the “misadventure” that William Douglas speaks about?
The ‘misadventure’ William Douglas speaks about happened in the water-pool of Y.M.C.A. in Yakima. Douglas was about ten or eleven old at the time. He was trying to learn swimming with the help of his waterwings. One day while he was sitting on the side of the pool, a big bruiser of a boy suddenly picked him up and threw him into the nine feet deep water. Douglas used all his mind and might to come out on the surface and paddle to the edge of the pool. However, all his attempts failed. In the end he was so tired that he gave up all efforts to come out and lost consciousness. It was them that someone picked him up and brought him to the shore. He survived somehow but the incident haunted him till many days afterwards. This is the misadventure that William Douglas speaks about.
Q. What were the series of emotions and fears that Douglas experienced when he was thrown into the pool? What plans did he make to come to the surface?
Douglas was frightened when he was thrown into the pool but he had not lost his reason in the beginning. He had a plan to come out of the deep water. However, his repeated attempts to carry out his plan failed. It was then that the sheer stark terror seized him. It was a terror that knew no understanding. Douglas found it difficult to control this emotion of terror. Only those who experience a death-like situation know what it is. Still he made one last effort. This too failed and the terror took a deeper hold on him. He shook and trembled with fear. He tried to call for help, to call for mother. Nothing happened. Then all efforts ceased. He was prepared to die. He crossed into oblivion. The curtain of life seemed to have fallen.
Q. How does Douglas make clear to the reader the sense of panic that gripped him as he almost drowned? Describe the details that have made the description vivid?
Douglas has given a detailed and vivid description of how the sense of panic gripped him as he almost drowned in the pool.
In the beginning Douglas was frightened but not frightened out of wits. On the way down he planned that on touching the ground, he would make a big jump, come to the surface, lie flat on it, and paddle to the edge of the pool. The plan failed and not once but thrice.
It was then that the stark terror seized him. He was shrieking under water slowly, even those screams were frozen. Only his heart, and the pounding in his head, said that he was still alive.
Then all effort ceased. A blackness swept over his brain. It wiped out fear. There was no more panic. He crossed to oblivion, and the curtain of life fell.
It was then, that someone saved him. It took hours before he was able to walk home unsteadily. The panic had gripped him so much that it haunted his heart till many days after the incident.
Q. Why does Douglas as an adult recount a childhood experience of terror and his conquering of it? What larger meaning does he draw from this experience?
Douglas recounts his childhood experience to say that the fear is a most dangerous emotion. To conquer his fear of water he had to work hard for many days but his account shows that he did the right thing.
He draws a larger meaning from his experience. He says that only those who have known stark terror and conquered it can appreciate his emotion. He says that there is terror only in the fear of death. All that we have to fear is fear itself. Since he had experienced both the sensation of dying and the terror that the fear of it can produce, the will to live somehow grew in intensity. ra
Q. Which two frightening experiences did Douglas have in water in his childhood ? Or Which two incidents in Douglas’ early life made him scared of water?
The first incident occurred when he was about four years old at a beach in California. A strong wave knocked Douglas down and he was buried in water. The next incident occurred at the YMCA pool when he was ten or eleven. A big bully of a boy tossed him into the deep end of the pool. He went down to the bottom and almost drowned in the pool.
Q. How did William Douglas’ aversion to water begin?
William Douglas’ aversion to water started when he was three or four years old and his father took him to the beach in California. They stood together in the surf. He hung onto his father, yet the waves knocked him down and swept over him. He was buried in water. His breath was gone and he was frightened. His father laughed, but there was terror in his heart at the overpowering force of the waves.
Q. How did Douglas’ introduction to YMCA pool revive his childhood fear of water?
Unpleasant memories were revived when he went to the YMCA pool for the first time. Childish fears were stirred. In a little while he gathered confidence. He watched other boys paddling on water with their water wings. He tried to learn bY imitating them. He did this two or three times on different days.
Q. Why did Douglas’ mother recommend that he should learn swimming at the YMCA swimming pool? Or Why did Douglas prefer to go to the YMCA swimming pool to learn swimming? Or Why did William Douglas use the YMCA pool and not Yakima river to learn swimming?
Douglas’ mother recommended that he should learn swimming at the YMCA swimming pool because it was safe, being only two or three feet deep at the shallow end with a gradual drop to nine feet at the other end. Also it was close to his residence.
Q. How did his experience at the YMCA swimming pool affect Douglas? Or How did Douglas’ experience at the YMCA pool affect him? Or How did the inicident at the YMCA pool affect Douglas?
The near death experience of drowning had a very strong impact on Douglas’ psychology. He started avoiding venturing Douglas, water and this fear remained with him for many years. It prevented him from fishing, boating and swimming, besides ruining his social life.
Q. What deep meaning did his experience at the YMCA swimming pool have for Douglas?
After his near death experience at the YMCA pool, Douglas started fearing water. He could not enjoy any water sports or go fishing. He decided to overcome his fear and learnt swimming again. He became confident and understood that ‘all that we have to fear is fear itself’.
Q. ‘All we have to Fear is fear itself’. When did Douglas learn this lesson?
These words mean that we fear, fear the most. Those who have undergone this experience of fear can only appreciate its worth. Douglas faced it twice in life. He had a terrible fear of water. He could not go for swimming, Canoeing, boating, rafting, etc. He realized that it would ruin his life since it was following and haunting him wherever he went. Fear is our hard Core enemy.
Q. What did Douglas experience when he went down to the bottom of the pool for the first time?
When Douglas went down the water for the first time, he was afraid but confident with his mind working over a plan that as his feet will touch the floor, he will jump up and pop up like a cork on top and paddle to the edge of the pool.
Q. Why was Douglas determined to get over his fear of water?
Douglas regretted being deprived of enjoying water activities like canoeing, boating, swimming, fishing, etc. The wish to enjoy them and the craving to regain his lost confidence, while being in water, made him try every possible means to get rid of his fear. He was finally able to overcome this mental handicap by getting himself a swimming instructor and further ensuring that no residual fear was left.
Q. How did the instructor turn Douglas into a swimmer?
The instructor adopted a systematic method to turn Douglas into a swimmer.The instructor put a belt around him. A rope attached to the belt went through a pulley then ran on an overhead cable. Thus, he was made to go back and forth across the pool hour after hour. Then he taught Douglas to breathe while swimming, and finally the leg movements and other strokes.
Q. How did Douglas make sure that he conquered the old terror? Or What efforts did Douglas make to get over his fear of water?
Douglas took the help of an instructor. The instructor made Douglas swim five days a week. He was with Douglas for about six months when he was sure Douglas was able to swim alone he left. Finally, Douglas was able to swim the length of the pool up and down but he was not sure he had conquered his fear completely. He went to Wentworth lake and dived off and finally he went to Warm lake, dived and swam across to the other shore and came back.
Q. Why did Douglas go to Lake Wentworth in New Hampshire? How did he make his terror flee?
After taking training in swimming, Douglas went to Lake Wentworth in New Hampshire to conquer his fear of water. He dived off at Triggs Island. He swam across the lake to Stamp Act Island. He swam the crawl, breast stroke, side stroke and back stroke. The terror returned only once but he overcame it. He went up the Tietan to Conrad Meadows and camped there. The next morning he dived into the Warm lake and swam across to the other shore and came back. He shouted with joy as he had conquered his fear of water.
Q. What happened at the YMCA swimming pool which instilled fear of water in Douglas’ mind?
When Douglas was learning at the YMCA pool at the age of ten or eleven, one day while sitting beside the pool waiting for other people to come, a muscular bully picked him up and threw him into the deep end of the pool. As Douglas realised that he might drown, he made three attempts to come up to the water surface, but failed and fell unconscious. Ultimately he was rescued by someone, but this episode in his life reinforced the fear of water in Douglas’ mind which he had first felt when, at the age of three or four, he had been completely swamped by a huge wave at the seaside in California.
His father held on to him at that time to save him from drowning, but at the YMCA pool there was nobody.
Q. How did Douglas’ experience at the YMCA pool affect him? How did he get over this effect?
The experience at the YMCA pool reinforced the fear of water in Douglas’ mind which he had first felt when, at the age of three or four, he had been completely swamped by a huge wave at the seaside in California. The experience at the pool left a haunting fear of water in his heart. He started avoiding water whenever he could, which affected his normal activities as well as his social life.
After a few years of suffering like this, Douglas decided to get an instructor and learn to swim. The instructor systematically taught him how to swim, starting from the basics and taking all the required safety measures, which gave Douglas confidence. After six months of training, Douglas swam across a number of lakes independently thus breaking free from his fear.
Q. Describe the efforts made by Douglas to save himself from, drawing in YMCA swimming pool.
When Douglas was picked and tossed into the the deep end of the pool, he was frightened, but not yet frightened out of his wits. On the way down, he planned that when his feet hit the bottom, he would make a big jump, come to the surface, lie flat on it, and paddle to the edge of the pool.
He imagined he would bob to the surface like a cork. Instead, he came up slowly. He opened his eyes and saw nothing but water. He flailed at the surface of the water, swallowed and choked. He tried to bring his legs up, but they hung as dead weights, paralysed and rigid and he went down again. He struck at the water expanding his strength, remembering that he had to hit the bottom of the floor. But second time too he failed to come up to the surface.
And then sheer, stark terror seized him. The third time he went down he tried to scream but ultimately found himself losing consciousness and started sinking to the bottom of the pool with total silence enveloping him.
Q. “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?
The incident that nearly killed Douglas occurred at the YMCA pool when he was ten or eleven years old. He had decided to learn swimming at the YMCA pool, and thus get rid of his fear of water. One morning, when he was alone at the pool, a big bully of a boy tossed him into the deep end of the pool. Though he had planned a strategy to save himself, his plan did not work. He went down to the bottom and got panicky. Thrice he struggled hard to come to the surface but failed each time. He was almost drowned in the pool. This misadventure developed in him a strong aversion to water.
Q. 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?
Roosevelt said, “All we have to fear is fear itself.” Douglas had experienced both the sensation of dying and the tenor that fear of it can produce. Strong will, hard determination, courage and toil as well as honest labour win over all our terrors and fears. The will to live brushes aside all our fears. This realisation made him resolve to learn swimming by engaging an instructor. This instructor, piece by piece, built Douglas into a swimmer. Then, he went to Lake Wentworth, dived at Triggs Island and swam two miles across the lakes to Stamp Act Island. Finally, he had conquered his fear of water.
Q. How did the instructor make Douglas a good swimmer? Or How did the swimming instructor ‘build a swimmer’ out of Douglas?
Douglas decided to get an instructor to learn swimming. The instructor started working with him five days a Week, an hour each day. He put a belt around him. A rope was attached to the belt went through the pulley that ran on an overhead cable. This, he was made to go back and forth across the pool hour after hour. Then, he taught him to put his head under water and exhale. He taught him to raise his nose and inhale. He taught him all the techniques of swimming in water. He held Douglas on the side of the pool and made him kick with his legs. He made him practice very hard and made a swimmer of Douglas bit by bit. He was with Douglas for about six months, when he was sure Douglas was able to swim alone, he left. Finally, Douglas was able to swim the length of the pool up and down but he was not sure whether he had conquered his fear completely or not.
Q. Do you think the title ‘Deep Water’ is appropriate? Give reasons in support of your.
The title ‘Deep Water’ is quite appropriate. The title is highly suggestive and at once focuses our attention on the main theme — experiencing fear of death under water and the efforts of the author to overcome it. All the details in the excerpt are based on his personal experience and analysis of fear.
The overpowering force of the waves at the California beach stir aversion for water in Douglas. His mother warns him against swimming in the deep waters of the treacherous Yakima River. The nine feet deep water of the swimming pool appears more than ninety to Douglas. However, when he conquers fear, he can dive and swim in the deep water of Lake Wentworth and Warm Lake. Thus, the title is apt and suggestive.
Q. ‘All we have to fear is fear itself’. Courage and optimism are two things that help anyone survive in the period of stress. Comment on the value of being courageous with reference to the chapter ‘Deep Water’.
Everyone in this world in his comes face to face with difficulties at some stage life as life is a mixture of joys and sorrows. These difficulties are like touchstone. They test a person’s will-power as well as his perseverance courage. It is only his optimistic and courageous point of view of life that helps him survive in the period of stress. Douglas also faced the fear of water since his childhood. He never wanted to go near the pool and thus avoided it. But then he decided to get rid of this fear as he had realised that all we have to fear is fear itself. He took the help of an instructor, who guided him into becoming a good swimmer. His aversion to water was gone. The fear of water which had haunted him for years had been overcome by him by his courage and perseverance. He made all his efforts to conquer his fear of water. In the same way, a person must not led any fear overpower him. We should face life boldly and courageously. Courage and determination go hand in hand. If one decides to acheive something, he can very well do it with the help of his positive thinking.
Q. Desire, determination and diligence lead to success. Explain the value of these qualities in the light of Douglas’ experience in ‘Deep Water’.
The terror of water followed Douglas wherever he went. To get rid of it, he made a strong determination. He decided to overcome his fear through his ‘will,’ He engaged an instructor who perfected him in swimming. The instructor gave him hundreds of exercises and taught him to exhale and inhale in water. The practice went on for three months and Douglas was able to counter his terror. Then, after more exercises, the instructor ordered him to dive. He swam across lakes also to gain confidence. He had now completely lost his fear of water. His desire, determination and diligence had succeeded in banishing his fear of water.