This novel- 20000 Leagues under the Sea was written by Jules Verne (Retold and published by Singapore Asia Publishers Pte Ltd)
About the Author
Jules Verne was born in Nantes, France in 1828. He was sent to Paris by his father to study law at university. Verne gave up law and started writing. He is often called the founding father of science fiction. He lived in poverty for ten years before his first success when he published his first novel in 1863. From then on, he published at least one book per year, many of which reflected his interest in scientific progress and inventions. Several of his ideas have been prophetic and have become fact, for instance, the submarine Nautilus in 20,000 Leagues Under the sea predated modern submarines by almost thirty years. His books have been a favourite by readers all around the world. He died in 1905. He had published over sixty works.
Professor Pierre Aronnax, an Assistant Professor from the Museum of Natural History in Paris is invited on an expedition with Commander Farragut on his ship, Abrahim Lincoln to get rid of a sea monster. They attack the sea monster but it turns out to be the Nautilus, a submarine run by Captain Nemo. The professor, his servant and Ned Land are captured and forced to travel with the submarine crew to the world’s oceans. Not knowing exactly where he is, Professor Aronnax knows that he is in for quite an adventure. Despite being a prisoner, Professor Aronnax is intrigued by the wonders of the sea, the capabilities of the Nautilus, and the strange behaviour and actions of Captain Nemo. The men are amazed with the deep-sea creatures and they travel to remote islands. They encounter a brilliant madman who travels the seas seeking revenge and beauty. Unable to continue in such a manner, they risk their lives to free themselves. Their chance arrives when the Nautilus enters a dangerous part of the sea called the Maelstrom, the men survive. They find themselves safe in a fisherman’s cottage. Professor Aronnax does not know whether Nautilus escapes the Maelstorm and if Captain Nemo is still alive.
Professor Aronnax: an expert of undersea life, he gets panicky easily when he falls into the sea. However, he has refined knowledge of academic philosophy and culture. He is unable to rely on his senses or on real-life experience. He must be able to reason everything scientifically. He is more inclined to believe science than his own experience.
Captain Nemo: In Latin, Nemo means nobody. It is very true of the captain as he cannot be identified by a name and he asks others to call him Nemo, which appears to be a self-appointed name.
Ned Land: Ned Land’s name obviously comes from Land. He hunts what is in the sea but is attached to the Land. He is much “earthier” than Professor Aronnax.
Conseil: Conseil in French means counsel. He offers counsel to Professor Aronnax.
The plot of a novel comprises of the series of events that make up the story. It is the sequence of events that take place in the story .There are five important parts in a plot.
- Introduction/Exposition: A mysterious creature has been sinking ships. Pierre Aronnax, an expert on the undersea world, is asked to go on a search mission by the US Navy. On board the ship are Pierre Aronnax, a renowned scientist along with his manservant, Conseil, and Ned Land the king of harpooners. The men meet Captain Nemo, the commander of the vessel, known as theNautilus.
- Rising Action: Captain Nemo tells them they must never leave theNautilus because he wants to protect its secrets, and his own.
- Climax: Nemo attacks a warship. Aronnax does not know to which country the warship belongs and baffled when Captain Nemo sinks it. The men decide they must escape at all costs. This is a major decision, which permanently changes their condition of imprisonment.
- Falling action: They realize they are heading toward a giant whirlpool. However, they survived. They awake in the hut of a fisherman.
- Denouement/ Resolution: Aronnax plans to return to France and continue writing.
Here are some of the places mentioned in the novel:
- Coast of Australia in July, 1866: The place where the enormous unidentified ‘thing’ was first seen.
- The Abraham Lincoln: A warship in which Professor Aronnax was invited to join for the expedition to track down the creature that has been destroying ships at sea. It is the best ship of the United States navy which is well equipped to catch the strange sea creature.
- Nautilus: A highly technological submarine designed, engineered and built by Captain Nemo who has a mystical relationship with the submarine which has become his entire world.
- Forest of Crespo Island: Captain Nemo presents to Professor Aronnax an underwater island on their first undersea expedition. It is a valley that contains treelike plants whose branches rose straight up.
- Coral Kingdom: The place where they buried the dead man who was treated by Professor Aronnax. The corals build up over the graves and seal the bodies forever.
- Arabian Tunnel: An underground passage at Suez which is a layer of solid rock with a natural tunnel. The Nautilus went through this tunnel to reach the Mediterranean.
- Vigo Bay: A graveyard of old-wrecked ships filled with treasure.The place where twenty-three ships loaded with treasure was set fire when the Spanish admiral felt that he would lose the battle with the English
Man and Nature
Nature here refers to the wonderful nature of the world beneath the waves. Both Captain Nemo and Dr. Aronnax love the sea and have a fascination with the creatures they see and observe. This has made difficult for Aronnax to leave when he is finally convinced that he must escape.
In this story Captain Nemo is trying to overcome nature by creating a new environment. This is typical in a science fiction where man tries to overcome nature. Despite his attempt to create a new environment, he cannot control all living things. Forces of nature get in Nemo’s way in incidences such as being attacked by a shark and being trapped in an ice tunnel.
Technology and Modernization
Nemo has very good knowledge in the field of science and engineering. His submarine manufactures its own electricity, has provisions for quantities of oxygen that allow it to remain submerged, and is as comfortable as any home. All food comes from the ocean. There is clothing made from some sort of sea fiber. There are cigars made of a special seaweed. Captain Nemo has air guns that allow him and the crew to go hunting as well as a device that permits the crew to walk the ocean floor. However, his achievements in the field of science has alienated him from humanity. He is considered to be a genius but at the same time he is also an outcast. His inventions are many hundreds of years ahead of time; thus, he does not belong in the world he is currently living. Technology and modernization can affect us in both ways- positively and sometimes in a negative way if we do not understand how to live in it.
Adventure and Exploration
Dr. Aronnax, takes on the task of identifying and classifying every animal on the planet. Captain Nemo takes his strange submarine into places no man has ever been before: a coral kingdom, a bed filled with pearls, the Arabian tunnel and so forth. He travels thousands of kilometres under and on the surface of the sea because he has a quest for adventure and knowledge. This quest for knowledge and understanding and the need to explore every centimetre of the planet seems to be a function inseparable from the human brain. The author understands this impulse to acquire new knowledge.
Captain Nemo’s Room: His room may be interpreted as a symbol of the Captain himself: his exterior (the extravagantly decorated ship) is commanding and intimidating–his interior (his room) is hollow, and lonely.
The Giant Pearl: This pearl holds a kind of appeal for Nemo. It is really beautiful, and as long as it stays a secret. It is something unique that he owns. It’s a piece of Nemo’s private, self-constructed world that represents the allure of the untouched, of unsolved mysteries.
The name “NEMO”: Nemo in Latin means “No One”. It describes the captain as a mysterious man. It is as if he is protecting his identity.
Meaning of the Title
A league is an old-fashioned measurement of distance that’s approximately equivalent to 5 kilometres. 5 x 20,000 = 100,000 kilometres. This is the distance Aronnax, Nemo, and company travel under the sea, not the depth they go while traveling. 20,000 leagues is about a quarter of the way to the moon when the moon’s closest to earth as written by Verne in his book From the Earth to the Moon. The title tells us of how epic and extensive the journey is. The phrase “under the sea” is important because it points the Nautilus is not a regular old boat; but one that can travel beneath the waves.