University of Wisconsin–Madison

“Class” in Titanic (1997)

In one of the most popular movies of the century, Titanic depicts the clashing of different social and economic classes and the elements that transcend these boundaries.

For anyone that has not seen the movie, Titanic depicts a poor Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) as he ventures onto the ship, the Titanic, and eventually falls in love with an upper-class Rose (Kate Winslet) travelling with her family. Jack struggles to fit in with the social class that Rose’s family belongs to, and Rose struggles to relate to the problems associated with Jack’s economic class.

The “Class” keywords essay by Elizabeth Bullen helped me to distinguish the difference between economic and social classes, specifically, how they are different from each other and distinguishable as an entity other than merely the collective socioeconomic class structure. Understanding this distinction, as well as where they overlap, can help people like me better comprehend themes in other pieces of literature. While this distinction is clear in Titanic, it is often more subtle in other films or texts. Furthermore, it encourages greater empathy the characters. Class identifications can often be ostracizing, and better understanding the overlap and history of this helps me empathize more with relationships, like that of Jack and Rose, that struggle with transcending these barriers.

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