“Titanic Survivors Found in Bermuda Triangle” was published in Robert Olen Butler’s 1996 short story collection Tabloid Dreams. As the title of the book indicates, the basic premise of the stories in this collection is the lurid exaggerations found in the headlines of newspapers such as the National Enquirer and the Weekly World News. Rather than simply sticking with the humor implied by the outlandish titles of the stories, however, Butler develops the humanity implied within each piece, exploring what the situations mean to the characters who find themselves in such bizarre circumstances.
This story consists of a monologue by a survivor of the Titanic disaster. She has no memory of the time that has passed from the sinking of the ship in 1912 to the time that a rescue helicopter arrived to save the lifeboat she floated in, sometime in the mid-1990s. In her time (the first decade of the twentieth century), she was active in the feminist movement, wary of men and acutely conscious of the inequalities that marked the American society she knew firsthand. Excited about the signs of social progress in the modern world that she sees on the television in her hotel room, she is also worried about what this means for her future: with the cause settled to which she once devoted her life, she cannot imagine that there is any joy left for her, a stranger in a strange land.
Though the title “Titanic Survivors Found in Bermuda Triangle” implies a farcical comedy, Butler is dead serious about this woman’s plight, examining her situation with the same measured care that readers expect of thoughtful works of literature.