The Sinking of the Titanic
Titanic was advertised heavily throughout 1911 and 1912 as illustrating the future of ocean travel, a ship too huge and too well-designed to ever sink. It sank on its first voyage. The theory behind the ship’s presumed stability was its double-lined hull, which was divided into sixteen watertight compartments. Four of these compartments could flood, and the ship would stay afloat. Worldwide attention was drawn to its maiden voyage between England and New York. On the night of April 14, 1912, two days out of Southampton, the ship collided with an iceberg in the North Atlantic, and five of the watertight compartments were ruptured, which was enough to make the Titanic lose its buoyancy. The initial impact was just before midnight, and by 2:30 a.m., the ship that had been called the greatest luxury liner ever was underwater. Of the 2,200 passengers, including many from the wealthiest families in the world, 1,513 drowned. Many of these could have been saved. But in their haste, people in lifeboats hurried away from the ship without being full, and the ship nearest, the California , did not hear the tanic ’s distress call: the signal operator had turned off his radio and gone to sleep.
The Bermuda Triangle
The Bermuda Triangle is an area in the southern Atlantic ocean where weird phenomena have been said to have occurred for hundreds of years. It is the area bordered by Miami, Bermuda, and Puerto Rico. More than a hundred ships and airplanes are rumored to have disappeared in this relatively small area, fueling rumors of alien abduction, government conspiracies, and paranormal activity. Hurricanes and waterspouts have been known to spontaneously flair up in this area, and strange lights have been reported in the skies. The most popular explanation for the anomalies that occur in the Bermuda Triangle is that the area, for some reason, has a strange electromagnetic field that confuses navigational instruments. The uniqueness of the magnetism in this area is clear from the fact that it is one of only two places on Earth where true north and electromagnetic north actually align. Many theorists take the strange magnetic fields to be proof of the work of outside forces. The second most common scientific explanation for the apparent difficulty in navigating this area is the unevenness of the ocean floor: it varies widely within the Bermuda Triangle, from 5000 feet in the Florida Straits to 12,000 feet a few miles away to 30,000 feet near Puerto Rico. The floor of the ocean affects currents in ways that sailors who are used to more gradual changes cannot anticipate. In addition, the tropical weather is violent and unpredictable. There are plenty of logical explanations for the large number of ships lost in the Bermuda Triangle, just as there are plenty of supernatural explanations.
The Suffrage Movement
The struggle for women’s rights in America was present at the country’s founding, as is seen in a letter from Abigail Adams to her husband, John Adams, while he was attending the Continental Congress in 1976, asking him to “remember the ladies.” He responded jokingly by using a line that was to be cited frequently over the next hundred and fifty years: the Declaration of Independence says that all are created equal. The first Women’s Rights convention, held in Seneca, New York, in 1848, galvanized the struggle for equality, identifying the inability to vote as a primary stumbling block to it. After the Civil War, those in the suffrage movement worked equally for the rights of women and blacks to vote; when the Fifteenth Amendment granted the vote to black citizens, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony formed the group that, in 1890, became the National American Woman Suffrage Association, mentioned in the story. Stanton resigned from the group in 1892, falling out of favor with many members, who found her ideas too radical. In 1911, the year before Titanic sank, the National Association Opposed to Women’s Suffrage was formed as a conglomeration of shadowy financial interests, backed by society women. Nonetheless, the right to vote—suffrage—was granted to women with the Nineteenth Amendment, in 1920. Much of the organizing apparatus of the National American Woman Suffrage Association was used to form the League of Women Voters, which continued to be active into the early 2000s.
Almost every grocery store and convenience store in the United States has a rack near the checkout counter stocked with newspapers whose headlines pronounce lurid claims, usually combining the names of currently popular celebrities with pulse-quickening adjectives such as “bizarre,” “twisted,” “horrifying,” “shocking,” and so forth. These papers are referred to as “supermarket tabloids.” The word “tabloid” refers to the papers’ layouts: they are printed on half sheets that are folded in half, not in quarters, so that they can be thumbed through like books without the trouble of having to separate sections and unfold them. Traditionally, papers laid out this way have catered to the lower classes: people who might read their newspapers on a subway train or carry it in a back pocket to read during a break, as opposed to those who might have the luxury of spreading their newspaper over a breakfast table or desk. Editors of tabloids generally catered to uneducated readers with bold, gripping headlines about sensationalistic stories. Tabloids were increasingly available throughout the nineteenth century in the United States, but they became even more common with the 1890s competition between William Randolph Hearst (1863–1951) and Joseph Pulitzer (1847–1911). By the 1970s, tabloids were part of the newspaper mainstream. By that decade, the National Enquirer had been distributed at grocery stores for twenty years. Other newspapers, such as the and the Weekly World News followed in its wake, offering stories that were attributed to ambiguous sources (such as “a close friend” of the celebrity being maligned) or simply running articles so preposterous that no one could take them seriously. As of the early 2000s, all U.S. supermarket tabloids are owned by the same publishing conglomerate, American Media.
Ira Mark Milne – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 22, Robert Olen Butler, Published by Gale Group, 2010