Walter Lord


Walter Lord’s A Night To Remember Essay, Research Paper

Walter Lord’s A Night To Remember

By Chad Chenier

The novel A Night To Remember by Walter Lord is about the well-known disaster that claimed the lives of over 1,500 people. The book was written in 1955, but the famous collision occurred on April 14, 1912 at 11:40 P.M. This story takes place on the ship and on its many decks, sailing across the Atlantic Ocean. The Novel has not one main character. This is a story about lower class passengers that were not only victims of a disastrous sea strategy, but were also victims of commercialism, arrogance and indifference.

On April 14, 1912, at 2:00 P.M. the Titanic left Queenstown for New York on her Maiden Voyage carrying 1,316 passengers and 891 crew. All was calm, cruising along the Atlantic Ocean at 221/2 knots. The watchman in the crow’s nest sighted an iceberg but since the ship was acclaimed to be unsinkable there was no need to worry. On the ship, some were playing cards, looking out at the night sky, listening to the band play, and some were sleeping. At around 11:40 that night some people heard a grinding noise that seemed to be coming from the inside of the ship. After a while the word got around that they had, in fact, struck an iceberg. Surprisingly no one cared and everyone went back to sleep.

The captain and the crewmembers went to investigate the damage; the collision was a lot worse than they had expected. The blow caused a two foot gash in the side of boiler room number 5. The Titanic only had enough lifeboats for a fraction of the passengers. The only ethical thing to do was to instruct the women and children to go first, if there were any other room (which there couldn’t possibly be) the men would go. The passengers went to their rooms to get some of their belongings. One took a Bible that was given to him by his brother, he promised to keep it on his person until they were to meet again. Most of the passengers took jewelry and money. At 12:15 A.M. the next day, the first wireless call for help was made. The twenty lifeboats were filled with women and young children and then were sent out to sea.

Soon the Titanic would be deep in the Atlantic Ocean. Many passengers panicked and jumped over the edge thinking that they could swim to safety. Some managed to climb aboard the lifeboats. The ship was now on such an angle that it was no longer possible to stand. No one could save the Titanic, now the only hope was to save the passengers who had gotten off the ship. With the help of the ship Carpathia, lines were dropped out to save those in the lifeboats. Back home Newspapers reported that all were saved from the massive collision. But that was far from the truth. There were only 705 survivors.

The night the Titanic struck the iceberg the sea was like a millpond and the ship stayed afloat for nearly three hours after the collision. The lifeboats could have taken 1,178 people yet only 713 were saved. Over 1,500 went down with her. After the disaster only a few bodies were found so is it not possible that there was also a shortage of life preservers? The fact that there were so few bodies recovered could prove that there might have been hundreds trapped deep inside the ship – many of these hundreds were third class passengers. Although the last two lifeboats did contain members from the third class compartments this only proves that some managed to get on deck in time, mainly through their own efforts. Because of the class distinction at the time those in third class (or steerage) would have been locked away from the first and second class compartments.

Who or what was to blame? It certainly was not the iceberg – it had every right to be there! Could all the blame be attached to Bruce Ismay and Captain Smith? Ismay was the person unofficially in charge of this ship. It was he who decided to ignore warnings and race through ice covered waters putting at risk the ship, its crew and passengers. Smith must also be to blame. It was he who the White Star Line placed in charge of the Titanic and he should have dismissed any orders or requests given to him by Bruce Ismay. Who was to blame for what occurred to the third class passengers? Naturally Captain Smith was blamed, as he was the captain. What about the officers below him? All of them would have been aware that the steerage passengers were locked in, yet it appears that very few of them showed any concern. Blame must also go to the crewmembers that held the keys to the locks, which kept the steerage passengers back and refused to help their fellow human beings. This publication concludes by showing that most of the victims of the Titanic were in fact murdered.

The answer to all the riddles of the titanic will never be known for certain. The best that can be done is to weight up all the evidence carefully and give an honest opinion. Some may disagree and they might be right. It is a rash man indeed who will set himself up as a final arbiter on what took place that fateful night, that incredible night when the Titanic went down.

Perhaps the protagonist of this story was not a character but was in fact the Titanic. Everyone was fascinated with the technical achievement of the Titanic but had this achievement and the arrogance that went with it led man to challenge the immutable laws of nature? After all didn’t Bruce Ismay state “God himself could not sink this ship”. But none the less they were wrong, it was sinkable and all it took was a frozen piece of water. It was a great novel, I enjoyed his exquisite narrative style. Although, I would have enjoyed the novel more if it were a little bit longer and if he had focused more on the characters, rather then just briefly describing them.

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