What sank the Titanic?
The Titanic was in 'a killing zone of nature,' says author Timothy Maltin.
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Look at Helen Churchill Candee. She's a first-class passenger carrying her most treasured possession, a miniature portrait of her mother. She stops on the stairs and sees a man friend of hers, and she gives him this most precious thing in the world. She says, look after this for me.Skip to next paragraph
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This tells you that she believed the Titanic wasn't going to sink, that she thought getting into a lifeboat would be dangerous and all the men would be much safer on the ship.
She was rescued. The man's body was found in the sea, and the locket was in his pocket. She was able to get the locket back.
Q: What do you think people misunderstand about the Titanic story?
What really strikes me is how similar they were to us deep down. They were absolutely the same as us. That's what gives us the Titanic its power. It's not a black-and-white story about people who were different than us. It's a full-color story about people who are the same as us.
They were getting divorced, having affairs. There were a pair of boys who'd been kidnapped by their father. There were con men, card sharks, people traveling under assumed names.
On the other hand, they were brave and caring.
It's very easy to look at the Titanic and say they were very bigoted, that they lived in a stratified, unfair society. But they were good like us as well, and the discrimination between the classes was not what people make it out today.
However, they did have much more confidence than we do, much more confidence in themselves that their way was the right way. They were very much empire builders, and they believed their technology would overcome everything.
It was a world where things made sense, where everything seemed to be on a straight-line curve to getting better.
Maltin writes more extensively about his Titanic theories in a new e-book called "Titanic: A Very Deceiving Night." He's also the author of "101 Things You Thought You Knew About the Titanic... But Didn't."
For more on the Titanic, read my recent review of three new Titanic books and check out my look at five extraordinary survivors. And last year, I interviewed author Frances Wilson about her new book "How to Survive the Titanic, or The Sinking of J. Bruce Ismay."
Randy Dotinga is a Monitor contributor.