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“I won't let go.
I promise.”
Jack's death at the end of Titanic
isn't about the amount of space

on that door.
There's an ongoing debate
about whether Jack could have fit

on the door with Rose -
was it big enough for both of them,

could the life jackets add buoyancy,
or would the hypothermia

have killed Jack anyway.
“Cameron said, quote,
'You're underwater tying

this thing on in 28-degree water…
so by the time you come back up

you're already dead.'”
Director James Cameron himself
has said that Jack had to die.

But why is that?
“Based on our experiments,
we have to find that they both

could have survived on that board.”
“I think you guys
are missing the point here.

The script says Jack dies.
He has to die.”
But the true reason
that Jack has to die

doesn't lie in the physics
of surviving very cold water,

but in the inner logic
of the story.

Jack has to die because he exists
in order to empower Rose

and give her the will to live.
“You must promise me
that you'll survive.

That you won't give up.”
And once that story purpose
is fulfilled, he's gone.

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When we look back on
Titanic as a culture,

we tend to fixate on the
insanely iconic romance scenes.

“I'm flying!”
But a big focus of the actual movie
is on the theme of finding

the will to live.
We're told almost right away
that Rose feel depressed and trapped.

“To me it was a slave ship,
taking me back to America in chains.”

As she's sitting in
the dining room, we hear

“I felt like I was standing
at a great precipice,

with no one to pull me back,
no one who cared...

or even noticed.”
Then she runs out and considers suicide.
And this happens to be the very moment
when Jack appears in her life --

he shows up to convince her
not to jump.

“Don't do it.”
Yes, we the viewers do see Jack
before this point, of course,

and the two briefly lock eyes
before this on the deck.

But from Rose's perspective,
it's as if Jack conveniently

springs into existence
precisely when she needs him --

to stop her from ending her life
and reveal to her a better

way out of her misery.
“Come on… come on,
give me your hand.

You don't want to do this.”
Now, if we fast forward from
this moment of their meeting

to near the end of the film,
the moment when Jack dies

is also the moment when Rose
finally commits wholeheartedly

to not dying.
She decides to cling to life
even when at this point it would be

far easier to just let go
and go gentle into that good night…

but no, she's going to rage,
rage against the dying of the light.

So by comparing these two scenes
when Jack enters Rose's life

and when he leaves it,
we see can Jack's dramatic purpose

in the story -
and that's to teach Rose

to keep the fire going within her --
to rekindle in her the desire to live.

“You're going to die
if you don't break free.

Maybe not right away
because you're strong.

But… sooner or later that fire
that I love about you, Rose…

that fire is gonna burn out.”
Rose feels she's trapped
because it's inconceivable

in her society to leave a man
as rich as her fiancé Cal.

“Your father left us nothing
but a legacy of bad debts

hidden by a good name.
And that name is the only
card we have to play.”

But Rose is deeply unhappy with Cal.
“I know what you must be thinking.
Poor little rich girl…
what does she know about misery.”

“No… no, that's not
what I was thinking.

What I was thinking was
what could have happened

to this girl to make her think
she has no way out.”

Before the Titanic hits the iceberg,
money, expressed as the classes onboard,

seems all-important, especially to
the people in first class.

“Ain't nothin' to it,
is there, Jack?

Remember, they love money,
so just pretend like

you own a gold mine…
and you're in the club.”

But when we're facing down death,
all the riches in the world

are suddenly revealed to be worthless.
The movie illustrates this perfectly
when Cal tries to bribe

First Officer Murdoch
for a seat on the lifeboat.

But this man is about to die;
so what use is money to him?

“Your money can't save you
any more than it can save me.”

Aside from the fact that
first class women and children

get priority on the lifeboats,
if your ship is going down

what does it matter what class
you're going to die in?

“Will the lifeboats be
seated according to class?”

Near the end of the movie,
we're told Cal commits suicide

after losing much of his money
in the Crash of '29 --

“But the crash of '29
hit his interests hard,

and he put a pistol
in his mouth that year.”

So because Cal can't understand
that money really isn't everything,

it's as if he never actually learns
what the value of life is.

When the Older Rose throws
the Heart of the Ocean

into the water at the end,
she's again rejecting Cal's value system

and the idea that wealth matters
anywhere near as much as

those inner, spiritual
things that drive us.

So Rose is giving the Heart of the Ocean
back to Jack and recognizing

the way that he restored
her heart to her --

helping her find the fire within
that she needed to live

this long, full life.
“So that old woman.
She's just a liar, right?”
“And a bit of a tramp
if you ask me.”

So as much as our pop culture
remembers Titanic for the romance,

“Hey, you cry every time
somebody talks about Titanic.”

“Those two had only each other.”
fittingly the deepest theme
of this movie about

so many tragic deaths
is finding the will to live.

In order for Rose to
recapture her will to live,

she needs to honestly face
what's wrong in her life,

and cut that out.
Committing to being alive
means committing to living

authentically as oneself.
“I'd rather be his whore
than your wife.”

Titanic begins with Rose without Jack,
and ends with Rose without Jack.

Sometimes, viewers might remember
Jack as the hero --

and he has all the trappings
of a perfect heroic underdog.

“You got nothin',
you got nothin' to lose.”

Meanwhile, Rose appears at the start
to be the “damsel in distress” type.

But it quickly becomes clear
that Rose is our real hero --

she's the one who undergoes
a complete transformation,

and this is her story.
Jack exists to service Rose's story.
“You're the most amazingly astounding,
wonderful girl… woman…

that I've ever know.”
And he's essentially the male equivalent
of the manic pixie dream girl trope.

Jack the Manic Pixie Dream Boy
is perfect love interest --

he's free, inspiring,
handsome enough to inspire

the lifelong zeal of pretty much
every preteen girl who watched

the movie at the time,
and he's everything

that's missing in Rose,
the protagonist's, life.

“Why can't I be like you, Jack?
Just head out for the horizon
whenever I feel like it.”

His purpose in Titanic is to
enable Rose's character growth.

Jack has given her all the tools
necessary for her survival,

so his role in
the story is complete.

And that, essentially, is why
he has to die at the end.

Not because he can't
fit on the door --

but because the story
has no more use for him.

In the later story,
the crew searching

for the diamond tell us
“We never found anything on Jack.
There's no record of him at all.”
The story gives us
an excuse for this --

Jack won his ticket
last minute in a poker game.

“We're goin' to America!
Full house, boys, woohoo!”
But it seems intentional
that the movie plants

the tiniest seed of doubt
as to whether Jack was really

on the ship after all.
At the end of Rose's life,
Jack's memory is completely

erased from the world,
except for the indelible impact

he's left on her --
so he's alive

only in her heart.
“He exists now…
only in my memory.”

It's a bit of a stretch
to read Titanic as Rose's romance

with a guy who's totally imaginary --
of course, many others

interact with Jack.
But the point is that
Jack has a subtle air

of unreality about him…
he feels like some fantasy

of a sexy life-coach
that every girl needs

from time to time to help her
reorient her heart in the right direction.

“I'm getting off with you.”
“This is crazy.”
“I know.
It doesn't make any sense…
that's why I trust it.”

Using the framework of Carl Jung,
we could say that Jack

is Rose's animus…
essentially, the male

piece of her that's missing.
“Teach me to ride like a man.”
“And chew tobacco like a man.”
“And spit like a man.”
So, in Jung's view,
a woman getting in touch

with her animus
often involves finding

strength of will
and determination to act.

These are things that historically
society hasn't really encouraged in women.

“So unfair.”
“Of course it's unfair.
We're women.”
But as soon as Rose merges
with Jack, her animus,

she becomes daring
and bold, her own woman.

“I'm not a foreman
in one of your mills

that you can command.”
In an incredibly accelerated timeline,
she ditches her fiancé

and turns her back on
her family and social class.

Rose shows sexual agency, too,
actively pursuing Jack

in their romance.
“Jack, I want you to draw me
like one of your French girls.”

“Put your hands on me, Jack.”
And after she has sex with Jack,
Rose is assertive,

holding and comforting him.
“You're trembling.”
When she arrives
on the other shore,

she assumes a new name
in a new country.

“Dawson.
Rose Dawson.”
Taking his last name is
a symbolic commitment to Jack,

representing the idea
that in her secret mind

she is forever married to him.
But if we say that he's her animus,
her “marriage” to this piece of herself

would symbolize a promise
that she'll never abandon

her own agency and will again.
Jack's death can be read
as the moment when her animus

ceases to be something
separate from her -

and the result is Rose Dawson.
“The press knows the size of Titanic.
Now I want them to marvel at her speed.”
To Rose, the Titanic doesn't symbolize
progress and the future --

to her, this ship is a prison.
And the Titanic that we're shown,
when it's still thought

to be unsinkable,
is a microcosm of

a very structured, oppressive,
unequal society.

“You hold a third class ticket
and your presence here

is no longer appropriate.”
It's symbolic that Rose
wants to literally jump ship

because she can't bear
what her future holds for her.

The film is set in 1912,
in a time when women

still primarily worked in the home,
they couldn't vote,

and divorce was frowned upon.
The scene where Rose's mother
harshly laces her into a corset

is a visual image of
how imprisoned she is

by social expectations.
As Rose changes,
so do her clothes -

she wears more flowing dresses,
allowing herself more physical freedom.

Rose begins as a victim of her time
and transforms into a rebel.

“Do you know of
Dr. Freud, Mr. Ismay?

His ideas about the male
preoccupation with size

might be of particular
interest to you.”

“Freud, who is he?
Is he a passenger?”
Rose's spatial travel through the ship
visually represents

her mind's journey to reject
the social constraints

she's believed before now
were unbreakable.

The Titanic was a cultural symbol
of might and power,

the unsinkable ship.
“He envisioned a steamer
so grand in scale,

and so luxurious in
its appointments,

that its supremacy
would never be challenged.”

So when the over-confident
behemoth sinks, it represents

the undermining of
a lot of other things

a classist, patriarchal
society posited as the norm.

Sadly, many poor,
innocent people

are the casualties of
this trauma and change.

But Rose surviving the crash
shows that she'll go on

into a new, brighter future.
As we look at all of this,
it's overwhelmingly clear

that the science of whether
Rose and Jack could have fit

on the door together is irrelevant.
What matters is that Rose
has completed her transformation.

She's now ready to
take on the world

as Rose Dawson --
an independent woman,

and a trailblazer
in a new era.

“It's not up to you
to save me, Jack.”

“You're right.
Only you can do that.”
This is Emily Gould.
Emily is an acclaimed author
and a former editor of Gawker.

She's also the co-owner
of indie publisher Emily Books.

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In fact, SkillShare has helped us
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Titanic: Why Jack Had to Die

249 Folder Collection
Ellie published on May 13, 2019
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