Deep Water Summary - A story by William O Douglas


Summary of Deep water

The Deep Water Summary

Deep Water is based on author William O Douglas' real-life experience where he recounts an ordeal he had when he was 10 or 12 years old. Deep Water is an excerpt taken from William O Douglas'  'Of Men and Mountains'. Through the text the author tells us about his fear of water, the reason behind it, and how he was able to overcome it. This text is part of various school curricula like NCERT Class 12 English book. 

The author's fear of water took hold of him at a very young age. He was maybe 3 or 4 years old & was learning to surf at some beach in California with his father when a really big wave swept over him.  Though was submerged in water for a few seconds only, the inability to save himself (or breathe) and the feeling of helplessness lead to psychological damage resulting in crippling fear of water.  And being a child, it was much worse for him; because of this incident, the author had aversion to water from the early years of his life. The fact that his father just stood there and laughed didn't help much either. 

The fear came back in full swing when the author was 11 or 12.  The author had started visiting  Y.M.C.A pool: it was  2 feet and 9 feet deep at the shallow and the deep ends respectively. Initially, he was uncomfortable & really scared because of the ever-looming fear of water but after observing others he began to try & follow their lead. Gradually, he began to feel more confident with each passing day. Unlike the sea, it felt a really safe place to learn to swim. 

However, one day this very safe place became a nightmare for the author. That day he went to the pool early; no one was around so he decided to wait for others. He was sitting by the pool when a big muscled boy of 18 (a boxer) came in, called the author ‘Skinny' and asked 'how he would like to be plunged in the water". The boxer boy just picked him up unceremoniously and threw him into the water on the deep side of the pool. 

The author hit the water surface in the sitting position and within minutes was at the bottom of the pool; the feeling of helplessness came in full swing but he still had his wits & his mind immediately began to work on how to survive. He was counting on the fact that on reaching the bottom he will push himself & will come up like a cork but his ascent was not that quick. When he pushed himself up, those 9 feet felt like miles. He swallowed a lot of water when he went underwater; he came up really slow and by then his lungs were ready to burst with pressure. When he reached the surface, only his eyes and nose broke the surface, not his mouth. Still really short on breadth he went underwater again; by the time he reached the bottom again he was hysterical and his body was not reacting the way he wanted it to.  He pushed again for the surface for the second time, his nose came out of the water, he tried to take in air but he was not quick enough, he took in a lot of water instead. He went underwater for the third time & lost consciousness. 

When he got back to his senses he was lying on his stomach by the pool, vomiting. He was taken to the locker room amidst the people taking;  the boxer boy was saying that 'he was just fooling around' and someone else said 'the kid nearly died'. 

He remembered walking back home after what felt like hours, going straight for bed in his room where he cried. That night he was too shocked and weak to eat, and quite understandably he never went back to the pool ever again. As he grew, the fear stayed with him and took all the joy out of the things he loved - fishing, canoeing, swimming, and boating. Every time he was near water his body used to paralyze and rob him of the happiness he once used to feel, but not anymore. 

After years of dealing with it silently, he decided to do something about it. He hired an instructor and began to swim 5 days a week for an hour with a belt around him which was attached to a pulley and the other end of the rope in the hands of the instructor. This went on for weeks and every time he went underwater the fear used to grip him in a deadlock. It took him 3 months to make any progress. His instructor made him do a lot of exercises for legs and taught him how to inhale before going underwater and the right way to exhale underwater. 

He started training in the month of October and by April he was done with it. His trainer told him that now he was a trained swimmer & asked him to swim the whole length of the pool. He dived into the pool, and though the fears tried to stop him, now he had the skills to rebuff them.  He continued with the laps till the month of July. 

He was confident now but not totally sure that the fear is gone for the good. So he decided to go to Lake Wentworth in New Hampshire. There he dived in the water from a dock on Triggs Island and swam 2 miles towards Stamp Act Island. He tried every stroke that he had learned, from crawl stroke to side, breast, and backstroke. When he was in the middle of the lake, his head was underwater and all he could see was the blackness of the bottomless lake; the fear surfaced once but he was able to collect himself and kept swimming. 

Still not totally satisfied, he next went to Conrad Meadows in Tieton and all the way to Meade Glaciar via Conrad Trail. He camped near the lake and in the morning dived into the lake and swam across it & back. Once back on the shore, sure that he has finally defeated his fear, he shouted with joy which was reverberated by the Gilbert Peak as if it was also celebrating with him. 

Deep Water is a story with an eternal appeal and shows us that every human is capable of defeating their worst fears all it takes is a little bit of courage to start & determination to continue till you succeed.