Suffering and Love: A Comparative Study between Titanic and Manchester by the Sea

Proceedings of The 5th International Conference on Research in Humanities and Social Sciences

Year: 2021


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Suffering and Love: A Comparative Study between Titanic and Manchester by the Sea

Qiaochu He



My paper explores the relationship between love and suffering by conducting a comparative study of Titanic (James Cameron, 1997) and Manchester by the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan, 2016). I will identify three kinds of suffering in Titanic, which are loneliness, restriction, and death, and investigate how each type of suffering is connected to the theme of love, not as a disruptive force but as an auxiliary one. Loneliness is evident in the female protagonist, Rose, a social misfit with different values and beliefs from people around her. However, loneliness as suffering brings Jack closer to her and gives rise to their love. Restriction, the external forces leading to the separation between Jack and Rose, instead of separating them, makes their love grow stronger. Different from restriction, death as suffering is fatal and irreversible. However, they still face Jack’s tragic death bravely and keep love alive even if they are set apart from each other forever. Death in fact makes their love more moving and profound, and together with restriction, proves that love can overcome suffering.

In Manchester by the Sea, suffering also serves as an auxiliary force of love. Both protagonists, Lee and Patrick, experience suffering – early in life for Lee and during the present for Patrick. Here, suffering results in love in various ways. Suffering allows them to notice and feel each other’s pain and makes them able to empathize with and care for each other. Their way of showing care and love mainly reflects in their willingness to bear and suffer more to relieve the other’s pain or even sacrifice themselves for each other. As each other’s only family, both of them learn to cherish the ties of kinship and family affection. A strain of melancholy is in the love between them because they are doomed to live separately; however, this does not prevent their love from being touching and moving. In terms of methodology, textual analysis will be used for the examination of both films. I will also reference the works of  Brown, McDonagh, and Shultz for detailed examination, interpretation, and argumentation.

keywords: Death, empathy, kinship, loneliness, separation.