The documentary of the "The Donner Party" shows man's will to live, no matter what the cost. I was personally moved by the barbaric actions taken by the emigrants, such as practicing cannibalism. Despite the grim conditions not everyone resorted to such unholy actions. The horrible events all lead back to the defunct entrepreneur Lanceford Hastings. It was because of his miscalculation that 41 poor souls perished.
Even though James Reed was told not to take the shortcut, he did anyways against practical reasoning. This shows that James Reed knew of the danger that lie before him, but ignored it in order to make up for the slow start. Reed's mistake was catastrophic; I learned through Reed's blunder that the quickest or easiest way is not always the right way.
Westward expansion was a monumental time in United States history. The 2000 mile trek was becoming almost common place.
The Donner party became complacent with the treacherous journey, and as a result they suffered greatly. The historical significance of this disaster is great, and was a lesson to all the emigrants who moved west after them.