Throughout the novel, water in various forms functions as a symbol for freedom or improvement. Tom notably begins to connect with his new rugby teammates in Coghill when he decides to join them at the local swimming pool, while Aunty Kath and Fin move to an apartment where the latter can see the ocean—moving home is, for Fin, a massive improvement over living in the hospital or in rehab, as he did for almost a year after the accident. The ocean also figures heavily into Tom's happy memories of times long past, with one notable exception: the time when Daniel held Tom underwater in retaliation. With that particular memory, water comes to symbolize the future in general. While for many, the ocean, swimming pool, or river help them recognize that there's a brighter future ahead, that moment is suggestive of Daniel's streak of cruelty that ultimately foreshadows his behavior in the lead up to the accident.
The timeline below shows where the symbol Water appears in The Story of Tom Brennan. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.