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The film Titanic is regarded as one of the biggest films of its decade, known for its heartbreaking tale in history and in romance, helped by its plot and musical score. Not only does this film tell the story of the romance shared by Jack and Rose, but of the tragic sinking of an otherwise “unsinkable” ship in 1912 that made its mark on history for generations to come. In Titanic, we see gender and class roles be played out that reflect the time period it is set in. For instance, the relationship between First-Class passengers and “steerage,” or lower-class passengers. We also see the relationship between women and men, such as the gender roles they are expected to fulfill. We can see, through the lens of this film, how women were regarded and how they were expected to act during the 1910’s, and how Rose ultimately rebelled against all of it.

The issue of class is presented as well through the expectations that women in elite classes must uphold, and how they are taught how to uphold these expectations generationally. In one scene, Rose’s mother, a First-Class passenger, is having tea with other First-Class ladies. She quietly, almost in a polite whisper, discusses how her daughter would not be attending university since “the only point of university is to find a husband, [and] Rose has already done that.” In another scene, Rose’s mother puts the duty of saving their family on Rose since her father had left them behind with debt; marrying a rich husband would therefore save them from losing their status and “becoming seamstresses.” In another scene, Rose observes a mother and her young daughter at a meal, and the mother is guiding her in how to sit up straight and how to delicately lay a napkin on her lap in a manner that is “ladylike.” Upon viewing this, Rose decides that she will not choose to live the life that her mother wants her to live, and to be under the thumb of an abusive fiancé.

Through all the examples shown of how ladies are supposed to act, Rose reveals herself to be the factor that defies all of the rules that women were expected to follow. Through the tragedy she endures, and even after Jack’s death, she has learned that she does not have to abide by the elitist rules she grew up observing – she has her own life to live, and her strength serves as something young women can look up to. Rose’s character is depicted as someone who has always had this fire within her, as someone who rebels against what is expected of her, and through the tragedy of the sinking of Titanic – and the loss of her love – she fulfills the freedom her character was meant to reach.

-Noelle Belanger
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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