About the author
William Orville Douglas
Born in USA
Douglas was a leading advocate of individual rights. He was a judge at the Supreme court of USA, retired in 1975 with a term lasting thirty-six years and remains the longest-serving Justice in the history of the court.
The following excerpt is taken from Of Men and Mountains by William O. Douglas.
In this story, Douglas talks about his fear of water and how he finally overcomes it with strong will power, courage, hard work, and firm determination. Once he took courage, the fear vanished. That Shows most of our fears are baseless. Fear creates dangers where there is none. The writer’s Experiences further confirm the proverbial truth, “Where there is a will, there is away.”
Characters & Places
Douglas: Narrator of the story
YMCA Pool: A swimming pool runs by Young Men’s Christian Association
Yakima: Yakima is a US city located about 60 miles southeast of Mount Rainier in Washington.
Determination, optimism, perseverance, diligence, openness to challenges, courage, persistence, endurance etc.
William Douglas had great passion for water.
He longed to learn swimming.
When he was three or four years, he was taken to a Beach in California by his father.
While surfing on the shore, a huge wave knocked him. He feared water. That was his childhood fear.
After some years he longed to swim in the Yakima River but his mother warned against that idea. the yakima river is treacherous.
Then he found the YMCA Pool the safest place for swimming. Its deepest end was nine feet deep, the bottom was tiled, the drop towards the deep part was gradual, water was clean and there were other children swimming.
He went to the pool and started swimming by imitating other boys.
One day, while waiting for the other boys to come, a big boy threw him into the deepest end of the water.
Douglas had the courage to face the situation. He went down and down with a hope to reach the bottom to make a big leap upward.
Three times he went down and on the third time, he lost consciousness and almost died!
Douglas gives a vivid description of death which is peaceful.
Douglas’ ‘body’ floated on the surface. Someone dragged him out of the water and provided first aid.
After this incident, Douglas tried to avoid water and water sports as much as possible.
When he grew up, water began to tempt him again.
He got a trainer and learnt swimming.
After the completion of the training, he went to various rivers, pools, lakes and swam alone and got rid of his fear.
In October Douglas got an instructor for swimming.
In three months, his fear began to fade.
Bit by bit he shed his fears.
The instructor engaged his feet and hands into swimming.
Getting rid of Fear
After the instructor was done, Douglas started a self training.
He went to the following rivers and lakes:
Lake Wentworth (New Hampshire)
Stamp Act Island
Tieton – Conrad Meadows
Conrad Creek Trail – Meade Glacier
He conquered the fear of water for ever.
The story, “Deep Waters” tells us how the writer overcame his fear of water and learned swimming with sheer determination and will power. He had developed a terror of water since childhood. When he was three or four years old the writer had gone to California with his father. One day on the beach, the waves knocked the child down and swept over him. The child was terrified but the father who knew there was no harm laughed. The experience bred a permanent fear of water in the child’s sub-conscious mind. Still another incident, more serious, increased his terror. The writer was trying to learn swimming in the Y.M.C.A. swimming pool in Yakima. One day while he was waiting for other boys, a big boy suddenly played a dangerous prank and pushed him into the water. The writer was terribly frightened. He went down nine feet into the water. His lungs were full of the unreleased air. When he reached the bottom, he jumped upward with all his strength. He came up but very slowly. He tried to catch hold of something like a rope but grasped only at water.
He tried to shout but no sound came out. He went down again. His lungs ached, head throbbed and he grew dizzy. He felt paralyzed with fear. All his limbs were paralyzed. Only the movement of his heart told him that he was alive. Again he tried to jump up. But this time his limbs would not move at all. He looked for ropes, ladders and water wings but all in vain. Then he went down again, the third time. This time all efforts and fear ceased. He was moving towards peaceful death. The writer was in peace. When he came to consciousness, he found himself lying on the side of the pool with the other boys nearby. The terror that he had experienced in the pool never left him. It haunted him for years and years to come. It spoilt many of his expeditions of canoeing, swimming and fishing. It spoilt his pleasures in Maine Lakes, New Hampshire, Deschutes, Columbia and Bumping Lake etc.
But the writer was determined to conquer his terror. He took help of a swimming instructor to learn swimming. The instructor taught him various actions necessary in swimming part by part. He put his face under water and exhaled and inhaled raising it above water. He practiced it for several weeks. He had to kick with his legs a few weeks on the side of the pool. At last he combined all these actions and made the writer swim. He learned swimming but the terror continued. So deep goes our childhood experiences! So fearful is the fear of fear! Whenever he was in water the terror returned. Hence forward the writer tried to terrorize terror itself. He tried to face the new challenge. When terror came, he confronted it by asking it sarcastically as to what it can really do to him? He plunged into the water as if to defy the fear. Once he took courage the terror vanquished. He faced the challenge deliberately in various places like the Warm Lake. He conquered it at last.
The experiences of the writer throw some important lights on certain aspects of life. Experiences of pain or pleasure in childhood remain in the sub-conscious mind and influence our feelings later too. The fear of water acted on the writer in that way. Even after being an expert in swimming, the writer felt terror. There was no reason at all. Once he took courage, the fear vanished. That shows most of our fears are baseless. Fear creates dangers where there is none. The writer’s experiences further confirm the proverbial truth, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”
Q1. What is the “misadventure” that William Douglas speaks about?
Or, 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?
Answer – William Douglas, the narrator recounts a terrifying childhood experience when he came face to face with death. When he was 10 or 11 years old, he was tossed into a 9 feet deep swimming pool at YMCA by a bigger boy just for the sake of “fooling” or for fun. Although he was a beginner, Douglas did not lose heart and planned to push himself with all his force. He thought once he comes to the surface, he would peddle to the age of the pool.
Unfortunately, this strategy did not work. He could not pop out of the water like a cork. His legs failed to support him. Terror gripped him with water all around him, did not know what to do. His lungs get ready to burst out and the pounding heart throbbing head made things worse. He could not scream and was frozen with fear. It seemed that the water around him was still and no amount of effort helped him. Suddenly, he felt there were tender arms around him and he was rescued.
Q2. How did this experience affect him?
Answer – After being rescued Douglas had lost consciousness and found himself beside the pool lying on his stomach and vomiting. This misadventure left him week and trembling. He shook seriously and cried at night. He could not eat anything and for days a haunting fear was knocking in his heart. The slightest exertion trouble him very much, making him weak from the bottom of his heart.
Q3. Why was Douglas determined to get over his fear of water?
Answer – After some years Douglas desperately wanted to get rid of his paralysing fear because any activity, bathing or in the water would bring back the icy horror of the pool. It was a terrible handicapped that had seized his mind completely. His legs would become paralysed thinking of the swimming pool incident.
He wanted to overcome it because the terrified fear had removed his fishing trips and deprived him of the joy of boating and swimming.
Q4. How did the instructor “build a swimmer” out of Douglas?
Answer – Douglas agonising fear was ruining his life. He could not enjoy even the day to day activities related to water sports. Finally he decided to get an instructor and learn to swim. The instructor understood the magnitude and severity of the terror that gripped him. For 3 months Douglas repeatedly made to go back and forth across the pool. Then Douglas was taught to put his face underwater and exhale and to raise his nose and inhale.
Later, for mixed together, he was made to kick with his legs at the side of pool. Then the instructor built a swimmer bit by bit and put each bit together into an integrated whole. Finally he told the narrator to swim with the narrator managed to do quite successfully.
Q5. How did Douglas make sure that he conquered the old terror?
Answer – After the instructor completed his training, Douglas wanted to cross check if he had really conquered his old terror. So he tried swimming all alone in the pool. Only a slight trace of terror would return which he managed to tackle well.
Still not satisfied, Douglas went to Lake Wentworth and swam there practicing all the strokes. Only once he felt that the old terror return. When he put his face under the water.
Douglas did not want the slightest traces of fear to remain. So he went west and camped besides the warm lake. He dived into the lake and only when he swam across to the others shore and back, he shouted with joy. Finally he was sure that he had defeated his old ally-the phobia of water bodies.
Q6. 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.
Answer – Douglas mention each and every details nicely. Although panicky, he had his strategy in place – popping up like a cork and then paddling to the edge of the pool. Unfortunately, His attempt was gone wrong and terror seized him.
He also tried to grab a rope but his hands clutched only at water. He tried to yell but no sound came out. His body parts was not supporting him because his legs were paralysed, lungs ached and head throbbed. His voice was frozen. The only signs he have were his beating heart and pounding head.
Douglas tried to strike back by jumping hard. This did not make a differences as there was water all around. He attempted to come out of water a third time, but in vain. He sucked for air and got water. Finally, he stopped making efforts and fainted into oblivion. All the above details of his gripping. The clarity with which he explains is amazing and makes the reader visualise his dismal condition aptly.
Q7. How did Douglas overcome his fear of water?
Answer – The fear that gripped Douglas after the near drowning accident in the pool, strike him many times. Finally, one, October he decided to engage an instructor and learn the art of swimming. He practiced 5 days week, an hour each day. The instructor understood the magnitude of the problem and devised noble method by which Douglas waist was attached to a group that went through a pulley. the instructor held on the rope as the narrator swam back and forth across the floor. Douglas could feel confident for this. However he grew panicky every time the instructor loosened his grip or when he kept his face underwater.
The instructor also taught Douglas to exhale under water and inhale by raising his nose from water. He made him kick with his legs so that the narrator could command them. From October to April, Douglas perfected his swimming. To get rid of his childhood fear, he subjected himself to rigorous test. After that he used to practice in the pool till July. Still he was not satisfied and went to Lake Wentworth. liquid filled old traces of air coming back but he dropped them away by sheer grit and determination. To be double sure, he dived into the warm lake. His Joy knew no bounds because he had conquered his fear ultimately.
Q8. 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?
Answer – Douglas as an adult recounts his childhood experience of terror and his ability to conquer his fear which portray that nothing is impossible, when a person wants to set things possible. Determination is the only thing that required to overcome any hurdle in life. He faced this thing practically when a big bully tossed him into the deep end of the YMCA pool. Through training from an instructor finally made him a swimmer.
Q9. “All we have to fear is fear itself”. Have you ever had a fear that you have now overcome? Share your experience with your partner.
Answer – Fear is just a state of mind. If we dread things they become difficult and unattainable and the moment we get determined to overcome from a particular fear every hurdles resolves. Almost everyone has fear through which day live. We depend upon us whether we I want to face it or not.
Like Douglas who had the fear for deep water, I had the fear from height. Whenever I used to get on some height, I used to feel that I will fall and die. Tall buildings and hill stations where something I used to keep myself away from. My fear had lost all the limits when one day I used to climb a ladder to pull something down and I felt as this was the end of the world for me. So, my family have decided a trip to Darjeeling, so that I could experience the beauty of height. Things have a different perception when looked from above. There, my parents made me climb a particular mountain. As I kept climbing up my fears soared, but when I finally reached the top and looked below things started looking beautiful as never before. From that point I overcome my greatest fear and feel myself to be a better and relaxed person.
Short Answer Type Questions : 3 Marks (30-40 Words)
Question 1 : Why did Douglas fail to come to the surface of the pool as he hope to?
Answer : When Douglas was drowning in the swimming pool, he tried to come to the surface of the pool but failed because he was overcome with fear and could not move his limbs. He felt that he would die.
Question 2 : How did Douglas’ introduction to the YMCA pool revive his childhood fear of water?
Answer : Douglas’ introduction to YMCA pool revived his childhood fear of water as , when he had not yet learnt swimming, he was thrown into the pool’s deep end by a bully and sank to the bottom despite his best efforts.
Question 3 : What shocking experience did Douglas have at YMCA pool?
Answer : One day when Douglas started going to the YMCA pool for learning swimming, a big bully threw Douglas into the deep-end of the pool when no one was around. Douglas had a shocking experience as he almost drowned that day.
Question 4 : What deep meaning did his experience at the YMCA swimming pool have for Douglas?
Answer : The experience at the YMCA pool had a deep meaning for Douglas. As he had experienced both the sensation of dying and the terror that the fear of it can produce, he learnt the will to live in great intensity.
Question 5 : How did his experience at the YMCA swimming pool affect Douglas?
Answer : Douglas’ experience at the YMCA pool left a haunting fear of water in his heart. He started avoiding going near water for many years. It prevented him from fishing, canoeing, boating and swimming, besides ruining his social life.
Question 6 : ‘All we have to fear is fear itself.’ When did Douglas learn this lesson?
Answer : Douglas learnt this lesson after he had conquered his fear of water completely. He went to Lake Wentworth, dived into the warm lake, and swam across the other shore and back. He shouted with joy at finally having conquered his fear.
Question 7 : Why did Douglas’ mother recommend that he should learn swimming at the YMCA pool?
Answer : According to Douglas, the Yakima river was quite deep and there were several cases of drowning reported there. His mother told him that the YMCA pool was only two or three feet deep at the shallow end. Though its depth was about nine feet the deeper end, yet the drop was gradual.
Question 8 : What lesson did Douglas learn when he got rid of his fear of water?
Answer : After getting rid of his fear of water, Douglas realised that what one has to fear is fear itself and if he is able to overcome fear, he can achieve anything he wants.
Question 9 : How did Douglas remove his residual doubts about his fear of water?
Answer : After the instructor had trained Douglas in the art of swimming, Douglas felt parts of the fear now and then. So, he went to Lake Wentworth and swam across to the other shore and back. This way he conquered his fear.
Question 10 : Which two incidents in Douglas’ early life made him scared of water?
Answer : Once Doouglas’ father took him to a beach in California where he was knocked down by strong waves and got breathless. Secondly, a boy tossed Douglas into the deep end of the YMCA pool. He tried hard to come out of it but fell unconscious after some time.
Question 11 : What did Douglas feel and do when he was pushed into the swimming pool?
Answer : When Douglas was thrown into the pool, he was frightened did not lose heart and planned to push himself up with all his force. He thought that once he came to the surface, he would paddle to the edge of the pool. Thrice, he tried to come to the surface, but unfortunately his strategy did not work.
Question 12 : How did his swimming instructor ‘build a swimmer’ out of Douglas?
Answer : The instructor adopted a systematic method to turn Douglas into a swimmer. He first made Douglas shed his initial fear of water by making him cross a pool suspended by a rope attached to a pulley. Then he taught him to breathe while swimming, and finally he taught him the leg movements and other strokes.
Question 13 : What happened when a ‘big bruiser of a boy’ tossed Douglas into the YMCA pool? How did Douglas plan to come out?
Answer : Douglas landed inside the pool in a sitting position, swallowed water and went at once to the bottom of the YMCA pool. On the way down he planned that once his feet would hit the bottom he would make a big jump to come out.
Question 14 : What efforts did Douglas make to get over his fear of water?
Answer : Douglas engaged an instructor to get over his fear of water. The instructor built a swimmer out of him. But to confirm that the terror would not strike him when he was swimming alone, Douglas decided to go to Lake Wentworth and swam across to the other shore and back.
Question 15 : Why did Douglas go to Lake Wentworth in New Hampshire? How did he make his terror flee?
Answer : Douglas was not satisfied with his practice so he decided to go to Lake Wentworth. There he was swimming in the middle of the lake, only once did the terror return, but he finally overcame it, and it did not return again.
Question 16 : Why was Douglas determined to get over his fear of water?
Answer : The phobia of water hampered Douglas’ joys of enjoying different water sports like fishing, canoeing, boating and swimming. He did not want to live with this handicap and so was determined to overcome his fear of water.
Question 17 : What did Douglas experience when he went down to the bottom of the pool for the first time?
Answer : When Douglas was going down to the bottom of the pool for the first time, those nine feet felt almost like ninety feet to him. His lungs were ready to burst, but somehow he summoned all his strength and made desperate efforts for survival.
Question 18 : When Douglas realised that he was sinking, how did he plan to save himself?
Answer : When Douglas realised that he was sinking he did not lose his wits and thought to make a big jump when his feet touched the bottom, so that he could reach the surface and finally paddle to the edge of the pool.
Question 19 : 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?
Answer : When Douglas found himself deep down into the water with a yellow glow, stark terror gripped him and he had no control over it. He felt paralysed, stiff and rigid with fear. It was only his throbbing heart that made him realise that he was still alive.
Long Answer Type Questions : 6 Marks (120 – 150 Words)
Question 1 : “All we have to fear is fear itself”. Describe Douglas’ experiences which led to making of the statement.
Answer : Douglas has experienced both the sensation of dying and terror that the fear of death can cause. Strong will, determination, courage as well as honest labour won over all his terrors and fears. The will to live brushed aside all his fears. In reality all our fears are only psychological , and can be easily won over, if we can control our mind. This realisation makes Douglas resolve to learn swimming by engaging an instructor. This instructor, piece by piece ,built Douglas into a swimmer. However, his first step was to drive away Douglas’ fear of water, before training him in swimming techniques. When Douglas tried and swam the length of the pool up and down, small traces of his old terror of water would return. So, he went to Lake Wentworth, dived at Triggs Island and swam two miles across the lake to Stamp Act Island. Finally, he was certain that he had conquered his fear of water.
Question 2 : “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.?
Answer : The incident which nearly killed Douglas occurred 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, waiting for others, a big bully of a boy tossed him into the deep end of the pool. Though he had planned a strategy to save himself as he went down, his plan did not work. Thrice he struggled hard to come to the surface, but failed each time. He was frightened and got almost drowned in the pool, lost his consciousness and felt that he would die. Though he was ultimately saved, this misadventure developed in him a strong aversion to water.
Question 3 : Desire, determination and diligence lead to success. Explain the value of these qualities in the light of Douglas’ experience in ‘Deep Water’.
Answer : 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 power. He engaged an instructor who would perfect him in swimming. The instructor first helped him drive away his fear, and then gave him many exercises besides teaching him how to exhale and inhale in water.
The practice went on for months together, during which his fear came back to haunt him, but his desire and firm will made him persist in his efforts. It was only through sheer determination and diligence that Douglas could not only counter his terror, but also became an expert swimmer.
He swam across and back large distances to ensure that his fear of water did not return. Hence, desire, determination and diligence succeeded in removing his fear of water.
Question 4 : What misadventure did Douglas experience at the YMCA swimming pool?
Answer : As the timid Douglas sat alone at the side of the YMCA swimming pool waiting for other people to come, a big boy, probably eighteen years old came there. He asked Douglas whether he would like to be ducked. Saying this, he picked up Douglas and tossed him into the deep end of the pool. Douglas landed inside the pool in a sitting position, swallowed water and went at once to the bottom of the pool. Though Douglas was extremely frightened he had his wits intact so on his way down he started to plan. He decided that when his feet would hit the bottom he would make a big jump, come to the surface, lie flat on it and then paddle to the edge of the pool.
Question 5 : Describe the efforts made by Douglas to save himself from drowning in the YMCA swimming pool.
Answer : When his feet hit the bottom of the pool, Douglas summoned up all his strength and made a great spring upwards thinking he would bob to the surface like a cork. But when nothing like that happened, Douglas tried to yell but no sound came out. Now a great force was pulling him under. He was paralysed under water, stiff and rigid with fear. Then in the midst of the terror came a touch of reason that he should remember to jump when he hit the bottom. As soon as he felt the tiles under him he reached out his toes towards them and jumped again with all his strength. Yet again the jump did not make any difference. The water was still around him. Stark terror took an even deeper hold on him and he shook and trembled with fright. He could not move his arms and legs. He tried to call for help but nothing happened. Finally he ceased all his efforts and decided to relax as blackness swept over his brain.
Question 6 : How did Douglas’ experience at the YMCA pool affect him and how did he overcome his fear of water?
Answer : Douglas’ experience at the YMCA pool had a far reaching effect on him. He never went back to the pool. He feared water. He tried to avoid it whenever he could. And whenever he went to a pool, the terror that seized him in the pool would come back. His legs would become paralysed. Icy horror would grab his heart. This handicap stayed with Douglas for years.
It ruined his fishing trips. He lost the joy of canoeing, boating, and swimming. William Douglas used every way to overcome his fear of water but with little success. It held him firmly in its grip. Finally, one October, he decided to employ an instructor and learn to swim. He went to a pool and practised five days a week, an hour each day. Douglas did succeed in his mission. The instructor made him an expert swimmer.
Question 7 : How did Douglas develop an aversion to water?
Answer : Douglas developed an aversion to water in his early childhood. When he was three or four years old, his father took him to a beach in California. The waves knocked him down and swept over him. He was buried in water. He was frightened and perhaps this was the moment his fear of water took root inside his mind. Further, when Douglas was ten or eleven years old, he decided to learn to swim and went to the YMCA pool. Here an incident took place that finally established his aversion to water as a big fear. One day when Douglas was alone at the pool sitting on the edge and waiting for others to come, a big boy threw him into the deep end of the pool.
What followed was a nightmarish experience for him. Douglas tried very hard and applied all his knowledge to come to the surface of the water but to no avail. Somehow he was saved. Thus after this fearful incident, his fear of water got implanted in his heart and mind permanently.
Question 8 : How did the instructor make Douglas a good swimmer?
Answer : To overcome his fear of water, Douglas finally decided to get an instructor to learn swimming. The instructor started working with him five days a week, an hour each day. The instructor put a belt around Douglas. A rope was attached to the overhead cable. The instructor held on to the end of the rope and along with Douglas went back and forth across the pool, hour after hour, day after day, week after week. On each trip across the pool a bit of panic seized Douglas. It took almost three months before the tension reduced.
Then the instructor taught him to put his face under the water and exhale and raise his nose and inhale. For weeks, his instructor made him kick with his legs. Until, he was able to command his legs at his will. In this way, piece by piece, his instructor made Douglas a swimmer. When Douglas perfected each piece, his instructor put them together into an integrated one. As a result, in nearly six months Douglas was able to swim, dive , crawl and so on.
Value Based Answer Type Questions : 6 Marks (120 – 150 Words)
Question 1 : The story ‘Deep Water’ has made you realise that with determination and perseverance one can accomplish the impossible. Write a paragraph in about 100 words on how a positive attitude and courage will aid you to achieve success in life?
Answer : Determination and perseverance is a combination of attributes and abilities that drive people to set goals for themselves and then to take the initiative to achieve these goals. Douglas was able to overcome his fear of water by the values of positive attitude and courage. Initially he was afraid of water but his grit and determination made him get an instructor to train him and overcome his fear. Determination today leads to our success tomorrow. It is that innate quality in our soul, which comes to surface when we face difficult tasks. It is a reflection of our values taught to us by society and circumstances and enables us to overcome all obstacles.
Question 2 : Roosevelt said, “All we have to fear is fear itself.” Do you agree? Why/why not?
Answer : The quote, “All we have to fear is fear itself”, by the American President, Franklin D Roosevelt, it is absolutely true. It is only the fear of consequences which prevents us from taking an action and hampers our progress. William Douglas’ fear of drowning makes him develop an aversion to water. Hence, he avoids going near water bodies or indulge in water sports. When he is able to overcome his fear with the help of the instructor, he succeeds. Likewise, there are numerous incidents around us that show how fear cripples the mind of an individual and society, and acts as a barrier to growth.
The other lessons in the textbook also support the view. The bangle makers of Firozabad in ‘Lost Spring’ fear that the police would put them in jail, so they accept their exploitation, and do not organise themselves into co-operatives. It is only when we are able to overcome our fear, that we can step ahead and progress in life.