The most moving climax of the famous movie Titanic is when the hero Jack sacrifices himself to save Rose. He remains submerged in the icy water and inevitably dies of hypothermia, while Rose is saved by lying on a wooden door floating on the ocean.
But was his sacrifice necessary? We examine three arguments that he could have joined her, and three that he could not.
Three reasons why Jack could have fit on the door with Rose
There was enough space – just
A lot of Titanic (and specifically Jack) fans spent a lot of time recreating the size and shape of the door that Rose was lying on in the movie, and then trying out ways to fit both people onto it. This image shows various ways that two adults could have squeezed onto the same jagged-edged door so that Jack could have been saved. In fact, in 2016 Kate Winslet admitted to Jimmy Kimmel that there was enough space for Jack on that door.
The raft could have been made buoyant enough
For years, Titanic director James Cameron rebuffed fans who insisted that there was enough space for Jack by telling them that the issue wasn’t space, but rather buoyancy. However, in 2012 an episode of Mythbusters recreated this famous scene in slightly warmer surroundings. They showed that by tying Rose’s lifejacket underneath the raft, it could have been made buoyant enough to support their combined weight.
They should have tried anyway
Fans of the movie have insisted on one unanswerable argument. Even if there wasn’t enough space or buoyancy in the raft for Jack, Rose should still have tried more to save him. Perhaps the raft could have held up just long enough to save them both from hypothermia? We’ll never know, but thousands of viewers blame Rose for not trying.
Jack is also not off the hook. As Neil DeGrasse recently noted on Huffington Post “Whether or not he could’ve been successful, I would’ve tried more than once…The survival instinct is way stronger than that in everybody, especially in that character”
Three reasons why Jack could not have fit on the door with Rose
It wasn’t buoyant enough
The movie clearly shows that Jack tries to get onto the door with Rose, and then stops as soon as he sees it begin to capsize. It’s obvious that it’s not buoyant enough to support the weight of both of them. The only options are for one of them to die, or for both of them to die.
It was too cold
Director James Cameron points out that although the Mythbusters might be correct about improving the buoyancy of the raft, their hypothesis isn’t possible in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic. Jack would be as good as dead anyway by the time he’d swum under the raft in 28-degree waters and tied the lifejacket into place. Moreover, since Rose would have to get off the raft and wait in the water while he did that, she’d probably die of hypothermia as well.
It’s not in the script
Although there have been many pretty successful attempts to prove that Jack could have been saved, Cameron slaps them all down. As he pointed out in an interview with the Daily Beast, the script says “Jack gets off the board and gives his place to her so she can survive”. Jack was doomed to die because that’s what the script says, and no amount of space or buoyancy research can change that.
The Bottom Line: Having examined the argument on both sides of this debate, we have to conclude that since Titanic is a scripted movie, Cameron gets the last word. That being said, if you were Rose, the Titanic had just sunk, you were floating on a door and your love interest was freezing to death. He tried boarding the thing once, and it almost capsized. Scripted or not, what would you do?