Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 226

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania is a nonfiction book by Erik Larson. The book was published in 2016. Although it is a detailed nonfiction account of the Lusitania tragedy, the book is in the style of a dramatic narrative, which Larson is known for.

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Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania has multiple layers and features multiple real-life figures such as ordinary people on board the Lusitania to Woodrow Wilson.

Larson does a masterful job in balancing perspectives on the tragic event. At a personal level, the lives and personalities of the Lusitania's passengers are told to form a personal narrative in the book. At a global level, the political and warfare elements that led to the sinking of the ship by a German U-boat are also detailed. This bifocal perspective throughout the book is one of its central themes. More specifically, Larson illustrates how ordinary people leading simple lives can get caught up in the larger dramas of history.

Another theme that recurs in the book is the dangers of hubris. The operators of the ship are arrogant in assuming that the German naval patrol won't resort to attacking civilian crafts. Likewise, the inaction of the British intelligence agencies—which had information about German U-boats in the area of the Lusitania's path—showed a dangerous level of overconfidence in their superpower status.

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