Not exactly a piece of pure and exalted manhood. That's a long way down indeed.
The survivor statistics tell the tale. More women from third class — deep in the bowels of the ship, where it was hard to escape and instructions were vague or nonexistent — survived than men from first class. Almost all of the women from first class (97 percent) and second class (84 percent) made it. As Butler notes, the men from first class who were lost stayed behind voluntarily, true to their Edwardian ideals.
They can look faintly ridiculous from our vantage point. Benjamin Guggenheim changed into his evening clothes that night: “We’ve dressed in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen.” Whom would you rather have around your wife or daughter, though, when there is only one slot left on the lifeboat? Old Guggenheim in his white tie and tails, or the contemporary slob in his Bermuda shorts and flip-flops?
The Titanic went down, they say, to the strains of the hymn “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” as the band courageously played on. It lent a final grace note to the tragedy. Today, we don’t do grace notes. We’ve gone from “Women and children, first,” to “Dude, where’s my lifeboat?” As the women of the Costa Concordia can testify, that’s a long way down.