Explain how the symbols used in Titanic contributed to the understanding of the audience.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Cameron is able to use symbols and almost a sense of iconography to help increase the audience's understanding of the narrative he renders.  Part of the reason why the film is known all over the world in so many ways and languages is because much of what he uses operates as symbols that can be understood in a universal manner.  The opening images of the vessel, both through Lovett's excavation at the bottom of the ocean floor, as well as the first time the screen fades into its showing prior to her commencement of voyage are both images of strength and decay that linger in the audience's mind.  When Jack stands on the front of the boat and proclaims his stake to royalty of consciousness with hands stretched, it serves as a symbol that represents how the boat, itself, can be seen as the very essence of freedom and autonomy.  The characters operate, to a great extent, as symbols that allow the audience to understand both the tragic condition of the vessel and how well intentioned people found themselves caught into the most horrific of conditions.  Mr. Andrews and Captain Smith are both examples of this, individuals who symbolize the commitment and honor to go down with the ship.  The band that plays on in the midst of the chaos, whose final rendition of "Nearer My God to Thee" sets the stage for a powerful symbolism of the greatest of achievements colliding with the most painful of reality.  The elderly couple who cling to one another as the water rises, only being able to take solace in their own companionship as their lives are rapidly coming to an end are also indicative of a symbol that resonates in the mind and consciousness of the viewer.  In the end, it is through symbols like these that Cameron is able to increase both the scope of understanding and identification of the audience with what is happening in the film.

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