My four year old has recently become obsessed with the Titanic. It’s got me wondering what it is about this story that has kept the world’s interest for so long. It was a dramatic shipwreck, but there have been others. Although at the time it was the largest loss of life in a single shipwreck, since then there have been many other worse shipwrecks (although most of them were in wartime – the worst ever in 1945).
I think it was a combination of factors. War time disasters only count if they’re your side (eg Lusitania). If the enemy dies, then it’s just their bad luck. For those who hate hubris, the Titanic was an example of the folly of hubris – being so sure your ship was unsinkable that you didn’t carry enough lifeboats. For class warriors, it was another example of the horrors of the english class structure, where third class passengers were in some cases, locked into a sinking ship. And finally, the story fires your imagination. The ship had sunk slowly enough (it took three hours) that there were many stories of individual heroism and bastardry to fire the imagination. And the media was there at New York Harbour while memories were fresh to write all the stories down.