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1. When did Douglas decide to learn swimming? What options were available to him to swim in? Which one did he choose and why?                                                                                        

Douglas was ten or eleven year old when he decided to learn swimming. He could swim in the Yakima River or the Y.M.C.A. pool at Yakima. The Yakima River was dangerous. Many persons had drowned in it. So he chose the Y.M.C.A. pool. It was considered safe.

2. Which factors led Douglas to decide in favour of the Y.M.C.A. pool?

The Y.M.C.A. pool was safe. It was only two to three feet deep at the shallow end. It was nine feet deep at the other. Moreover, the drop was gradual. The Yakima River was treacherous and had drowned many. So he decided in favour of the Y.M.C.A. pool.

3. What two things did Douglas dislike to do? Which one did he have to do and Why?

Douglas hated to walk naked into the pool and show his very thin legs. Secondly, he was fearful about going in alone. So, he sat on the side of the pool to wait for others. But he had to go into water as one cannot learn swimming without going into water.

4. What efforts did Douglas make to get over his fear of water and why?

Fear of water was a handicap Douglas developed during his childhood. It stayed with him as he grew older. It ruined his pursuits of pleasure such as canoeing, boating, swimming and fishing. He used every method he knew to overcome this fear. Finally he was determined to get an instructor and learn swimming.

5. 'I crossed to oblivion, and the curtain of life fell.' How did Douglas experience the sensation of dying before he actually crossed to oblivion?

As Douglas went down the pool the third time, he swallowed more water. All his efforts to jump up ceased. His legs felt limp. A blackness swept over his brain and it wiped out fear and terror. There was no more panic. It was quiet and peaceful. He felt drowsy and wanted to go to sleep.

6. How did the "misadventure" happen with Douglas?

Douglas was sitting alone on the side of the pool, waiting for others. A big, boxer boy of eighteen came there. Mocking him as 'Skinny' he enquired how he would like to be plunged in water. Saying so, he picked up Douglas and tossed him into the nine feet deep end. Douglas struck the surface of water, swallowed water and at once went to the bottom.

7. Why does Douglas say: The Instructor was finished. But I was not finished.' How did he overpower tiny vestiges of the old terror?

The Instructor's work was over when he built a swimmer out of Douglas piece by piece and then put them together into an integrated whole. However, Douglas was not satisfied as the remnants of the old terror would return when he swam alone in the pool. He would frown on terror and go for another length of the pool.

8. "This handicap stayed with me as the years rolled by". How did it affect his pursuits for pleasure?

The haunting fear of water followed Douglas everywhere. He rowed in canoes on Maine lakes fishing for landlocked salmon. He went for bass fishing in New Hampshire, trout fishing on the Deschutes and Metolius in Oregon, fishing for salmon on the Columbia, at Bumping Lake in the Cascades. Fear ruined his fishing trips. It deprived him of the joy of canoeing, boating, and swimming.

9. "I had an aversion to the water when I was in it", says Douglas. When did he start having this aversion and how?

The aversion started when Douglas was three or four years old. His father had taken him to the beach in California. They were standing together in the surf. He had held his father tightly, even then the waves knocked him down and swept over him. He was buried in water. His breath was gone. He was frightened. There was terror in his heart about the overpowering force of the waves.

10."On the way down I planned," remarks Douglas. What plan had he devised and how far did it succeed?

While going down to the bottom, he made a plan to save himself from being drowned. He decided to make a big jump as his feet hit the bottom. He hoped to move up to the surface of water like a cork. Then he would lie flat on it, and paddle to the edge of the pool. The plan was only partly successful. He rose to surface twice. But each time he swallowed water and went down.

11. Why did Douglas go to Lake Wentworth in New Hampshire? How did he make his terror flee?

Douglas was not sure whether all the terror had left even after the training from October to April and practice till July. So he went to Lake Wentworth and swam two miles. Terror returned only once when he was in the middle of the lake. He had put his face under and saw nothing but bottomless water. The old sensation returned in a smaller size. He laughed and rebuked terror. His terror fled away and he swam on.

12. How did Douglas struggle before hitting the bottom of the pool for the second time? What was the outcome of his struggle?

Douglas moved his arms and legs around without control. He swallowed water and choked. His legs hung as dead weights, paralysed and rigid. A great force was pulling him down. He struck at the water with full force as he went down. He had lost all his breath. His lungs ached and head throbbed. He was getting dizzy. He went down through dark water and was filled with fear.

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

An absolute, rigid terror seized Douglas. It was a terror that knew no understanding or control and was beyond comprehension of anyone who had not experienced it. He was paralysed under water-stiff and rigid with fear. His screams were frozen. The beating of his heart and throbbing of mind made him feel that he was still alive.

14. 'In the midst of the terror came a touch of reason.' How did the two forces work in opposite direction and how did Douglas fare?

Reason; told him to jump when he hit the bottom as he felt the tiles under him, he jumped with everything he had. But the jump made no difference. A mass of yellow water held him. Stark terror took an even deeper hold on him. He shook and trembled with fright. His arm and legs wouldn't move. He tried to call for help, but nothing happened.

15. In what state did Douglas find himself on regaining consciousness?

He found himself lying on his stomach near the pool. He was vomiting. The fellow who had thrown him in the pool was saying that he was only joking. Then someone remarked that the small boy had nearly died. He hoped that he would he all right then. Then he was carried to the locker room for change of clothes.

16. What was the first piece of exercise the Instructor gave Douglas? How long did it take to yield the desired result?

The instructor made him go across the pool an hour a day for five days with the help of a rope attached to his belt. The rope went through a pulley that ran on an overhead cable. The instructor held on to the end of the rope. They went back and forth across the pool. A bit of panic seized him every time. Moreover, the old terror returned and his legs froze when the instructor loosened his grip on the rope and Douglas went under water. It was after three months that the tension began to decrease.

17. "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?

The water waves which knocked data young Douglas and swept over him at the beach in California filled him with fear. He was then three or four years old. All this happened when, he had clung to his father. He was buried under 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.

His introduction to the Y.M.C.A. swimming pool revived unpleasant memories and stirred childish fears. He had gathered some confidence when a misadventure happened as a big boy threw him at the nine feet deep end of the pool. His efforts to rise to the surface and paddle to the side failed twice. He would have drowned if he had not been rescued in time. This terror of water overpowered his limbs and made them stiff. His mind was haunted by fear of water. It was, in fact, a handicap to his personality.

18.How did the misadventure in Y.M.C.A. swimming pool affect Douglas? What efforts did he make to conquer his old terror? Did he succeed?

Douglas had nearly died in the swimming pool. For days there was a haunting fear in his heart. The slightest exertion upset him. He avoided going near water as he feared it. The waters of the cascades, fishing for salmon in canoes, bass or trout fishing—all appeared attractive activities. However, the haunting fear of water followed Douglas everywhere and ruined his fishing trips. It deprived him of the joy of canoeing, boating and swimming.

The fear of water became a handicap. He used every method he knew to overcome this fear. Finally, he decided to engage a trainer and learn swimming. In seven months the instructor built a swimmer out of Douglas. However the vestiges of the old terror would return when he was alone in the pool. He could now frown on terror and go for another length of the pool. This went on till July. Douglas was not satisfied.

He went to Lake Wentworth and swam two miles. The terror returned only once when he had put his face under water and saw nothing but bottomless water. In order to remove his residual doubts he hurried west to Warm Lake. He dived into the lake and swam across to the other shore and back. He shouted with joy as he had conquered his fear of water. He finally succeeded in his effort.

19. Comment on the appropriateness of the title 'Deep Water'.


Do you think the title Weep Water' is apt? Give reasons in support of your Answer.

The title 'Deep Water' is quite appropriate to this extract from 'Of Men and Mountains' by William O. Douglas. 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 essay converge on his personal experience and analysis of fear. The psychological analysis of fear is presented from a child's point of view and centres round deep water and drowning.

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 waters of Lake Wentworth and Warm Lake. Thus the title is apt and suggestive.

20. Give an account of the fears and emotions of Douglas as he made efforts to save himself from being drowned in the Y.M.C.A. swimming pool.

Douglas was frightened as he was going down. His active mind suggested a strategy to save himself from being drowned in water. He knew that water has buoyancy. He must make a big jump as his feet hit the bottom. He hoped to rise up like a cork to the surface, lie flat on it and paddle to the edge of the pool. Before he touched bottom, his lungs were ready to burst. Using all his strength, he made a great jump. He rose up very slowly. He saw nothing but yellow coloured dirty water. He grew panicky and he was suffocated. He swallowed more water as he tried to shout. He choked and went down again. His stiff legs refused to obey him. He had lost all his breath. His lungs ached and head throbbed. He was getting dizzy. He went down through darkwater again. An absolute terror seized Douglas. He was paralysed under water. His reasoning power told him to jump again. He did so, but his arms and legs wouldn’t move. His eyes and nose came out of water, but not his mouth. He swallowed more water and went down third time. Now a blackness swept over his brain. He had experienced the terror that fear of death can produce as well as the sensation of dying.

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