Deep Water: MBOSE Class 12 English Core notes, answers

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Get summaries, questions, answers, solutions, notes, extras, PDF of Class 12 English Core textbook (Resonance), Deep Water by William Douglas, which is part of the syllabus of students studying under MBOSE (Meghalaya Board). These solutions, however, should only be treated as references and can be modified/changed. 

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The story “Deep Water” is an autobiographical account of a fearful experience William Douglas had with water, and how he eventually overcame his fear.

William Douglas decided to learn to swim when he was ten or eleven years old. He chose the YMCA pool in Yakima for his lessons because the Yakima River was considered dangerous. His mother frequently warned him about the river, recounting drowning incidents to emphasize her point. The YMCA pool seemed safe, with its shallow and gradually deepening ends. Despite his initial reluctance to show his skinny legs, he began practicing with water wings at the pool.

Douglas had always had an aversion to water, dating back to an incident when he was three or four years old. His father took him to the beach in California, where a wave knocked him over and buried him underwater, causing him to panic despite his father’s amusement. This early experience left a lasting fear of water in him.

As Douglas began to practice swimming at the YMCA pool, he gradually gained some confidence. However, one day, when he was alone at the pool, an older, more physically imposing boy came in and, seeing Douglas’s skinny frame, decided to tease him. The boy picked Douglas up and threw him into the deep end of the pool. Douglas, who had never been in the deep end before, was terrified.

He hit the water sitting down and quickly sank to the bottom. Trying to remain calm, he planned to push off from the bottom and float to the surface. However, when he tried, he did not rise quickly as he had hoped. He panicked as he struggled to reach the surface, his lungs burning for air. He managed to get his nose out of the water momentarily but then sank again. This cycle repeated, and with each attempt, his fear and exhaustion grew.

In his final attempt, Douglas felt an overwhelming sense of terror and then a strange calmness as he neared unconsciousness. He experienced a sense of peace and drowsiness, as if he was floating into oblivion. When he regained consciousness, he was lying on the poolside, vomiting, with the older boy who had thrown him in expressing his regret.

The incident left Douglas deeply traumatized. He avoided water for years, and whenever he tried to engage in water-related activities, such as fishing or canoeing, the old terror would resurface. This fear significantly impacted his enjoyment of these activities, as his legs would become paralyzed with fear, and his heart would race with icy horror.

Determined to overcome this debilitating fear, Douglas eventually decided to take professional swimming lessons. He practiced rigorously under the guidance of an instructor, who used a systematic approach to help him build confidence in the water. The instructor used a pulley system to ensure Douglas’s safety while he practiced various swimming techniques and gradually got used to being underwater.

Over several months, Douglas’s fear began to diminish. He learned to exhale and inhale properly while swimming, kick with his legs, and coordinate his movements. By April, he could swim the length of the pool using different strokes. However, he was still not entirely free from his fear and decided to test himself further.

Douglas went to Lake Wentworth in New Hampshire, where he swam two miles across the lake to Stamp Act Island. During this swim, he only briefly felt the old terror, which he managed to dispel by confronting it directly. He continued to test himself in various bodies of water, eventually feeling completely at ease.

Reflecting on his experience, Douglas recognized the profound impact it had on him. The ordeal taught him that the real terror was not in the water itself but in the fear of it. He realized that fear of death could be more paralyzing than death itself, and overcoming this fear gave him a new sense of freedom and a stronger will to live. This understanding echoed Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous statement, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

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Textual questions and answers

Fill in the blanks

1. The YMCA pool was safe because ______

Answer: it was only two or three feet deep at the shallow end, and while it was nine feet deep at the other, the drop was gradual.

2. William sat at the side of the pool to wait for the others because ______

Answer: he was timid about going in alone.

3. The handicap of ______ stayed with the author for many years.

Answer: the haunting fear of the water

4. When the old sensation of fear returned the author ______ and said ______

Answer: laughed; ‘Well, Mr Terror, what do you think you can do to me?’

Answer these questions briefly

1. From what age did William Douglas have an aversion to water? Describe the impact the waves had on him.

Answer: William Douglas had an aversion to water from the age of three or four. The waves knocked him down, swept over him, and buried him in water, leaving him breathless and terrified.

2. Why did William hate to walk up to the pool?

Answer: William hated to walk up to the pool because he had to show his skinny legs, which made him feel embarrassed.

3. Who was the cause of the misadventure in the YMCA pool?

Answer: The cause of the misadventure in the YMCA pool was a big bruiser of a boy who picked William up and tossed him into the deep end.

4. What plan did William make to stop himself from drowning in the pool?

Answer: William planned to make a big jump from the bottom when his feet hit it, come to the surface, lie flat on it, and paddle to the edge of the pool.

5. How did his swimming pool experience affect his later life, especially his experiences in his hobbies of fishing and canoeing?

Answer: His swimming pool experience caused a haunting fear of water that followed him, ruining his fishing trips and depriving him of the joy of canoeing, boating, and swimming.

6. What positive action did William take to overcome his fear of water?

Answer: William took the positive action of getting an instructor and practising five days a week to learn to swim, which helped him gradually overcome his fear of water.

7. How did the swimming instructor help Douglas gain confidence in swimming?

Answer: The swimming instructor helped Douglas gain confidence by using a belt and pulley system, gradually relaxing the hold on the rope, and teaching him to exhale under water and kick with his legs until he could command them effectively.

Answer these questions in detail

1. Describe the different emotions William felt as he was drowning.

Answer: William felt a mix of emotions as he was drowning. Initially, he felt fear and panic when he was thrown into the pool. As he sank deeper, he experienced a sense of terror and suffocation, coupled with a desperate struggle to reach the surface. This escalated into sheer, stark terror as he realized he was losing control and could not save himself. Eventually, a sense of peace and resignation washed over him as he gave up the struggle and felt himself crossing into oblivion.

2. What qualities do you perceive William to have had? Reinforce your answer with examples from the text.

Answer: William exhibited qualities of determination, resilience, and courage. Despite his initial fear and traumatic experience, he showed determination by deciding to learn to swim and overcoming his fear of water. His resilience is evident in his persistent practice and gradual progress under the instructor’s guidance. Courage is highlighted when he faced his fear head-on by swimming in lakes and conquering the terror that had haunted him for years.

3. ‘The experience had a deep meaning for me… All we have to fear is fear itself.’ What is the deep meaning that you draw from the experience related by William Douglas?

Answer: The deep meaning from William Douglas’ experience is that fear itself is often more debilitating than the actual danger. His journey from terror to overcoming his fear illustrates that confronting and conquering fear can lead to personal growth and freedom. The experience taught him that the fear of death is more terrifying than death itself, and overcoming such fear can strengthen one’s will to live and face life’s challenges with greater confidence.

Appreciating language

The title of the story ‘Deep Water’ is an idiomatic expression. This expression means that someone is in serious trouble-and this is the central theme of the story.

The story is written in the first person narrative style. Employing this narrative style lends more drama to the recounting of personal experiences, arousing the interest of the reader.

Write about a fear-filled incident you have experienced. Follow the same style as that used by the author.

One summer afternoon, I found myself standing on the edge of a cliff, heart pounding, as the wind whipped around me. I had always been terrified of heights, and now, staring down at the abyss below, that fear gripped me with icy fingers. My friends, already at the bottom, encouraged me to jump. They had taken the plunge with ease, their laughter echoing up to me. I took a deep breath, trying to steady my nerves, but my legs felt like lead. I could feel the panic rising, the dizzying fear making my vision blur. Memories of past failures and fears flashed through my mind, but then I remembered the advice a mentor once gave me: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” Summoning all my strength, I closed my eyes, took a leap of faith, and jumped. The fall felt endless, but as I hit the water below, a sense of exhilaration washed over me. I had faced my fear and emerged victorious.

Examples of some figures of speech used in the story are: a. Simile ‘bob to the surface like a cork’ b. Metaphor ‘curtain of life fell’

Explain the meaning of these phrases in context.


a. Simile ‘bob to the surface like a cork’: This simile compares the action of rising to the surface of the water to a cork’s buoyant and effortless movement upwards. It emphasizes how quickly and naturally William expected to return to the surface after hitting the bottom of the pool.

b. Metaphor ‘curtain of life fell’: This metaphor illustrates the moment William felt himself slipping into unconsciousness. It compares the onset of unconsciousness or death to a curtain falling, symbolizing the end of a performance or, in this case, the end of his awareness and struggle.


1. Imagine you are William Douglas. Write a letter to your best friend describing your emotions as you were thrown into the water by an older boy. Mention the effect this incident had on you once you got home and the ‘haunting’ fear it left in you.


Dear Ron,

I hope this letter finds you well. I must share with you an incident that shook me to my core and left a lasting impact on my life. It happened at the YMCA pool in Yakima. I was there alone, feeling a bit nervous but determined to learn how to swim. Suddenly, an older boy, much bigger and stronger than me, approached and without warning, threw me into the deep end of the pool.

As I hit the water, panic set in. I tried to remember my plan to push off the bottom and reach the surface, but the nine feet felt like an eternity. My lungs burned, my head throbbed, and terror overwhelmed me. I struggled and flailed, but it was no use. I felt myself sinking deeper and deeper, and for a moment, I was convinced I would drown. It was only by sheer luck and the intervention of others that I was pulled out in time.

When I got home, I was a mess. I couldn’t stop trembling, and tears flowed uncontrollably. That night, I couldn’t eat or sleep. The fear that gripped me was unlike anything I had ever experienced, and it haunted me for days. The mere thought of water made my knees weak, and I avoided it at all costs. This incident left a scar that I struggled with for many years, affecting my ability to enjoy activities like fishing and canoeing. The fear of drowning became a shadow that loomed over me, refusing to let go.

Take care, and I hope to see you soon.

Best regards,

2. ‘Mother continually warned against it and kept fresh in my mind the details of each drowning in the river.’ ‘Father laughed, but there was terror in my heart at the overpowering force of the waves.’ Could his mother’s personal fear of the water have been the cause of the author’s fear too? Or, could it have been his father’s careless attitude on the beach with his son? Write a paragraph in about 100 words stating your opinion.


In my opinion, both his mother’s warnings and his father’s careless attitude contributed to William’s fear of water. His mother’s constant reminders about the dangers of drowning likely planted a seed of fear in his young mind, making him cautious and anxious around water. On the other hand, his father’s nonchalant attitude during a frightening experience at the beach, where he laughed while William was overwhelmed by the waves, could have reinforced this fear. The lack of comfort and understanding from his father during a moment of vulnerability likely intensified his sense of helplessness and fear, creating a lasting impact on his psyche.

Extra fill in the blanks

1. The YMCA pool was safe because it was only ______ feet deep at the shallow end. (two/three)

Answer: two

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18. The swimming instructor taught William to put his face under water and ______. (exhale/sing)

Answer: exhale

Extra true or false

1. William Douglas had an aversion to water from the age of ten or eleven.

Answer: False

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19. William found peace in death and terror only in the fear of death.

Answer: True

Extra question and answer

1. What was the depth of the deep end of the YMCA pool?

Answer: The deep end of the YMCA pool was nine feet deep.

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19. What was the significance of William’s final triumph over his fear of water, and how did it change his outlook on life?

Answer: William’s final triumph over his fear of water had profound significance, changing his outlook on life. By confronting and conquering this deep-seated fear, he experienced a newfound sense of freedom and confidence. The experience taught him that the terror of fear was more debilitating than the actual danger, a lesson that reinforced the idea that overcoming fear was crucial for living fully. This realization allowed him to embrace life more courageously, feeling released from the limitations that fear had previously imposed on him. The triumph gave him a greater appreciation for life and a stronger will to live, enabling him to face other challenges with renewed strength.

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