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Titanic, by David R. Slavitt
Home | Form | Symbolism | About David R. Slavitt | Titanic History | Paraphrase | Images | Reflections | Sounds & Rhythm


Word Choice, Word Order, and Tone
     In "Titanic" Slavitt uses middle to informal diction. His choice of language is simple and uncomplicated, as is the poem itself. He poses questions in the opening lines instead of simply stating, Everyone loves the Titanic. This serves to ask the reader if he or she would buy a ticket to the doomed ship. While the speaker of the poem does ask a question, the speaker's words are not informal enough to sound like a conversation.
The word "crossing" in the second line has two meanings. The denotative meaning would be the actual crossing of the ocean by the ship. However crossing also has a connotative meaning. When people die it is sometimes called crossing over. So the connotative meaning of the word crossing is death. The same is true for the word down in the fourth line. The denotative meaning would be the physical downward sinking of the ship and again the connotative meaning of going down would be death.
In lines five and six, Slavitt lists the things that the passengers die with: "people, friends, servants, well fed, with music, with lights!" The quick listing of these luxuries (followed by "Ah!") sweeps one up in the romance of the famed elegance of the trip and its prestige, almost overshadowing the impending doom. The phrase "the world, shocked, mourns, as it ought to do and almost never does" somewhat dismisses the mourning of the world as obligatory and without true emotion. Giving our grandchildren a good cry is almost humorous in its lack of passion. Eventually, the passengers meet their fate in the water, "which really isnt so bad, after all." The description of the speaker's death is very detached-he is simply musing on his situation. The repetition of the phrase "We all go" refers again to death. This means that we all must die at one point, and the death of those on the Titanic was respectable and prestigious.
The mood of the poem should be morose, as it concerns a great tragedy; however, it is wistful and almost lighthearted. The tone is rather happy and celebratory. The question, "Who does not love the Titanic?" shows that the speaker loves the ship. The two exclamation points in the sixth line, "with lights! Ah!" enforce the festive tone.

In the poem "Titanic" Slavitt uses different images in order to appeal to our senses that allows the poem to have more depth. Some of the senses Slavitt uses are: sight, hearing, touch, and another that is not a sense, but gives an image which is feelings.

The first line of the poem displays the word love which evokes emotional feelings. I know that emotional feelings are not one of our five senses, but feelings of love do inflict an image.

The second and third line describes how, if people got a chance to ride again, who would not jump at that opportunity, and I feel that this is evoking sight and emotions because they are not only visualizing the opportunity, but their emotions are also being activated when thinking of how they would feel if the opportunity arose.

The next 4th, 5th, and 6th lines activate sensations of sight, and hearing. I say this because of the phrase: "crowds of people, friends, servants, well fed, with music, with lights! Ah!" This evokes these emotions in myself because I'm thinking of the music and visualizing what is taking place.

The 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th line evokes feelings as well as sight. When reading about the mourning people and how there are no books for the grandchildren to read to "give them a good cry" I visualize all of this, but it also evokes feelings of sadness for the people lost.

The next three lines, 11-13, evokes feelings of touch and hearing. I say this because the "cold water is anesthetic" involves touch. We all know how cold water feels and what happens if you are in it too long, which makes us think about this as we read this passage. The phrase "cries on all sides" activates hearing. We can only imagine all of the cries that were taking place.

The last line activates sight, "we all go: only a few, first-class."

Figures of Speech
Metaphors: "The cold water is anesthetic and very quick," comparing the temperature of the water to anesthetic makes the story of the poem more personal. We all at some time in life have experienced cold water and anesthetic. We know both anesthetic and cold water numbs your body.

Personification: I am going out on a limb here with this one. Who does not love the Titanic? love is a human characteristic and the titanic is an object. The author is connecting peoples love for this non-human object, the titanic. And the cries on all sides must be a comfort crying is a human characteristic and all sides, which I believe means the different classes of people- rich, poor, and middle class- that are on the boat.