Deep Water: AHSEC Class 12 English summary, questions, answers

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Get here the summary, questions, answers, textbook solutions, extras, and pdf of the story Deep Water by William Douglas of Assam Board (AHSEC / SEBA) Class 12 English textbook. However, the given notes/solutions should only be used for references and should be modified/changed according to needs.

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Summary/explanation: “Deep Water” is an autobiographical account of William Douglas’ near-drowning as a young boy in a swimming pool. It happened at the Yakima YMCA pool when he was eleven or twelve years old. This incident left him with a lifelong fear of water, which he overcame through sheer determination and willpower. “Deep Water” narrates his conscious efforts to overcome his fear and return to the water.

The author describes a frightening incident that occurred when he was ten or eleven years old. Despite his horror, the incident resulted in several positive changes in his life. He had always been afraid of water since he was a child. He recalls being knocked and rushed over by waves while on a beach in California with his father. He clung to his father, who simply laughed it away, not realising what he was feeling. But he felt suffocated and terrified. He then went to the pool at the Y.M.C.A. in Yakima when he was ten or eleven years old.

In comparison to the raging Yakima River, which his mother had always warned him about, the pool was a safe haven. It gave him the opportunity to learn to swim, and he also purchased a pair of water wings for the purpose. Despite his self-consciousness about his skinny legs, he decided to ignore his pride and go to the pool. His childhood fears surfaced as he approached the pool, but he ignored them and joined the other boys in paddling. After a few days, he gained confidence and felt at ease in the water. Then everything changed once more.

One day, he reached the pool and nobody was around.  He sat by the pool’s edge, hesitant to enter alone. Then came an older boy, nearly eighteen years old, strong and muscular, who bullied him and threw him into the deep end of the pool. The author landed in a sitting position, swallowed a large amount of water, and descended immediately. He was terrified, but he decided to make a big jump when he reached the bottom of the pool. He would then rise to the surface, lie flat on the water, and paddle to the side. But the fall seemed never-ending. Nine feet seemed to stretch to ninety. Even before his feet touched the ground, his lungs were about to burst. He gathered all of his strength and attempted to spring upwards as soon as his feet touched the ground. However, the outcome was not as he had hoped. He was surrounded by water when he opened his eyes. Panic gripped him, and he tried but failed to grasp something. Only water came into contact with him. His voice had failed him, and only his nose and eyes were above the water.

He flailed his legs in the water, only to swallow more water and choke. He was sinking back to the bottom because his legs seemed paralysed. He was overcome by a lack of breath, a throbbing head, dizziness, and a pain in his lungs. He was drawn underwater by a powerful force, but he remembered a strategy he could use. He could jump to the surface, lie flat on the water, and reach for the edge with his arms and legs. But, once again, he failed. He tried to call for help, but only the water could hear him. As he sank, he could see dark water all around him. Only someone who has actually drowned could understand his feelings. He was stiff and paralysed. The only sensations he had were his pounding head and pulsing heart.

Even though he was terrified, he did not give up. But it did not make a difference. He tried to contact his mother. He appeared to emerge briefly from the yellow water before sinking back in. His efforts were in vain. No longer was there any panic or fear. He was exhausted and drowsy, eventually becoming oblivious to everything around him. In some ways, he had given up on life. When he regained consciousness, he was lying on his stomach beside the pool, vomiting. The boy who threw him said he was just having fun, but someone else said he almost died. He walked back home in shock several hours later. He was haunted by the trauma at all hours of the day and night. Even minor exertions irritated him. He never went near the pool and avoided water at all costs. He felt tempted to swim in various lakes and rivers a few years later, but every time he approached the water, the same old terror gripped him. He had been haunted by the dreadful memory of the pool for many years. As a result, he was never able to enjoy swimming, boating, canoeing, or even fishing.

Unable to overcome his fear, he finally decided to hire a swimming instructor one fine October. He practised for an hour each day, five days a week. The instructor wrapped a rope and belt around him. He panicked every time the instructor relaxed his grip on the rope. As the instructor held on to the end of the rope, Douglas swam back and forth in the pool. Douglas was taught various techniques, but he became tense whenever he put his head underwater. He needed three months to unwind and relax. He practised kicking the water, inhaling and exhaling, until he mastered the technique. The instructor was successful in making him a swimmer. By next April, he was able to dive and swim the length of the pool. The instructor’s job was completed. Despite having mastered the technique, he lacked the confidence to be alone in a pool. He then began to face his fears by swimming for longer periods of time.

He continued in this manner until July, but he wanted to be certain that all traces of his fear had vanished. So he travelled to New Hampshire’s Lake Wentworth and swam two miles across the lake to Stamp Act Island. He once put his face under the water in the middle of the lake and saw nothing but bottomless water. He felt uneasy for a moment, but he overcame his fear, which vanished in dread. He repeated the process at Warm Lake, confident that he had finally overcome his fear. This entire experience had a profound impact on the writer’s life. Only those who have faced and overcome extreme terror can understand and appreciate it. The fear of death is the most terrifying thing, and he had felt both the sensation of dying and the terror that fear of that sensation can produce. Throughout the process, the survivor in him emerged victoriously towards the end of the story “Deep Water”.

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Textual questions and answers to the story Deep Water 

Think as you read-I

1. What is the “misadventure” that William Douglas speaks about in the story Deep Water?

Answer: The “misadventure” that Douglas refers to in the storey “Deep Water” was a near-drowning incident at the Y.M.C.A. pool. He had a childhood fear of water that he wanted to overcome. As a result, one day when no one was around, he went to the pool in Yakima. He was sitting by the side of the pool when a bully picked him up and threw him into the deep end. This misadventure was a traumatic event in his life.

2. 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: Douglas landed in a sitting position on the water, swallowed a lot of water, and sank to the bottom. He wasn’t insane, but he was terrified. As his feet touched the bottom and rose to the surface, he intended to make a big jump. He’d then lie down and paddle to the edge of the pool.

3. How did this experience affect him?

Answer: This experience left him traumatised for a long time. That day, he couldn’t sleep or eat, and he cried all night. He was irritated by even the tiniest effort. He avoided water at all costs and never went to the pool.

Think as you read-II

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

Answer: Douglas’s fear became a major hindrance because he was unable to participate in any aquatic activities. Wherever he went, he was haunted by a terrifying fear of water. It robbed him of his enjoyment of boating, canoeing, and swimming, as well as the thrill of fishing trips.

2. How did the instructor “build a swimmer” out of Douglas?

Answer: Understanding Douglas’s situation, the instructor wrapped a belt around him and attached it to a rope that passed through a pulley. Every five days of the week, he was made to go back and forth to the pool for one hour. He was also taught to inhale and exhale while swimming by his instructor. Douglas was gradually taught to submerge his head and kick with his legs. As a result, the instructor gradually transformed him into a complete swimmer.

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

Answer: Douglas wanted to make sure there were no traces of fear left. So he went to Lake Wentworth and swam two miles across the lake to an island. When he saw the bottomless water in the middle of the lake, he felt uneasy but brushed it off. His final test was a dive into the Warm Lake, where he swam across and back and celebrated his victory over fear.

Understanding the text (Deep Water)

1. 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 did not panic at first because he anticipated jumping upwards as soon as his feet touched the ground. He made an attempt but failed to reach the surface. It was a slower rise than anticipated, and there was nothing but water all around. He fell once more. A nine-foot-deep pool felt like ninety. Even the second and third attempts failed to save him. He was terrified, immobile, and gasping for air. He tried to scream and call out to his mother, but it was in vain. His head throbbed and his lungs hurt. All of his efforts came to an end when drowsiness overtook him and he realised it was the end of his life.

2. How did Douglas overcome his fear of water?

Answer: The traumatic experience at the pool instilled in him a profound fear of water. He shuddered even when he was close to a pool. He felt deprived of all the joys of fishing, boating, swimming, and so on, but he resolved to overcome it. As a result, he hired an instructor who, after learning about his condition, gradually trained him up.  After learning the technique of inhaling above and exhaling below water, kicking with his legs, and swimming in various strokes, Douglas became a complete swimmer. Finally, he needed to put his courage to the test, which he did at Lake Wentworth. He knew he’d conquered his fear after swimming two miles.

3. 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 once had a terrifying experience at a Y.M.C.A. pool. He was picked up by a large bully and thrown into the pool. Even after a long struggle, he was on the verge of drowning. He was so afraid of water after this incident that he avoided going near it. He could not stand doing anything that involved water. He decided to hire a swimming instructor to help him overcome his fear.  Perseverance and determination helped him achieve his goal. To prove to himself that he had overcome his fear, he swam in great lakes like the Wentworth and the Warm Lake. He recounts these incidents to demonstrate that fear must always be confronted and defeated. The larger meaning of his conquest is that he had experienced the sensation of dying and the fear of death in the incident of near-drowning. But once he had surpassed both, he had nothing to fear in life. He was liberated.

Additional/extra questions and answers/solutions to Deep Water

1. What was it about the Y.M.C.A. pool that made Douglas feel safe?

Answer: The shallow end of the Y.M.C.A. pool was only two to three feet deep, and while the deep end was nine feet, the drop was gradual. It was also white and spotless, just like a bathtub.

2. Why has he had a fear of water since he was a child?

Answer: A minor incident on a California beach developed his fear of water. When he was three or four years old, his father took him to the beach. A wave knocked him down and buried him underwater, despite his grip on his father. He was out of breath and terrified.

3. Why was Douglas sitting by the pool alone?

Answer: That particular day, Douglas arrived at the pool before anyone else, but he was hesitant to swim alone. So he sat by the pool, waiting for others to arrive.

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13. Did Douglas’ fear of water return after the incident? How did it affect his life?

Answer: Douglas was haunted by the incident at the swimming pool for many years. He walked back home, weak and trembling, several hours after being rescued. He couldn’t eat anything and spent the entire night crying. Fear had gripped his heart for days, and even the slightest exertion irritated him. He never returned to the pool and avoided water whenever possible. Even years later, his haunting fear of water followed him and ruined his fishing trips as well as the joys of swimming, boating, and canoeing.

14. How did the instructor turn Douglas into a swimmer in the story Deep Water?

Answer:  In the story Deep Water, Douglas eventually hired a swimming instructor. Because the instructor was aware of his fear of water, he put a belt around him that was attached to a rope that went through a pulley that ran on an overhead cable. After three months of hard work and perseverance, he was able to swim easily. Slowly, the panic of submerging his head vanished, and the instructor taught him to inhale outside and exhale underwater. After perfecting his leg kicking technique, he was transformed into a competitive swimmer.

15. Describe Douglas’ final test of overcoming his fear of water.

Answer: Despite having been trained by an instructor, Douglas needed to increase his confidence in his ability to swim alone to ensure that he had shed the last vestiges of fear. So he went to New Hampshire’s Lake Wentworth, jumped off the dock, and swam two miles to Stamp Island. When he put his face under the water in the middle of the lake and saw the bottomless water, he felt a little scared but quickly brushed it off. His ultimate confidence was demonstrated when he dove into Warm Lake, swam across to the other shore, and returned. He exclaimed with delight at his final victory over fear.

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