Voyage on the Great Titanic

The Diary of Margaret Ann Brown
Copyright: 
1990
Publisher: 
Scholastic
Series: 
Dear America
Subject(s): 
Setting: 
Review: 

A fictional diary of a young Irish-English girl who is raised in a Catholic orphanage in London and is hired as a companion to a wealthy lady for the duration of the Titanic's voyage to America (where she hopes to meet up with her older brother). Margaret, having lived on the streets with her brother for some time before coming to the orphanage, is wise beyond her years with a somewhat cynical streak. Her attitude toward the opulence of the Titanic and the lifestyle of her first class passengers gives the reader both a sense of the historical reality of the Titanic and the times in which this tragic event took place. It is within this context that mankind learned a severe lesson about his own limitations. I think it is a rather good way to illustrate these details of the Titanic - through the eyes of someone who, like us, is unaccustomed to such things.

The author attempts to treat the Catholic Church and Margaret's Irish-Catholic upbringing with respect. However, she betrays a lack of understanding of at least one rather significant detail... In the story, Margaret makes no distinction between a Catholic Mass and a "Mass" [according to the story] which is presided over by the ship's captain. In reality a girl who had spent five years in an orphanage (and become close friends with the nuns there) would have been familiar with these distinctions and considered them important. We also know that there was a Catholic Mass said aboard the Titanic that fateful Sunday (as explained on the website about Fr. Thomas Byles).
Margaret has a rather innocent romantic interest in one of the ship's stewards (although I imagine that the two of them spending time alone together would probably have been frowned upon) and receives a farewell kiss from him before he goes down with the Titanic.

It might make an interesting point of discussion to consider how Margaret (or someone in her position) might have turned to her Catholic faith in order to try to cope with her loss in this great tragedy.

Review Date: 
7-7-2000
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