LITERATURE


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.

 

SYNOPSIS

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.

CHARACTERS:

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.

 

PLOT

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.

  1. 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. 
  1. Rising Action: Captain Nemo tells them they must never leave theNautilus because he wants to protect its secrets, and his own.
  1. 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.
  1. Falling action: They realize they are heading toward a giant whirlpool. However, they survived. They awake in the hut of a fisherman.
  1. Denouement/ Resolution: Aronnax plans to return to France and continue writing.

SETTING

Here are some of the places mentioned in the novel:

  1. Coast of Australia in July, 1866: The place where the enormous unidentified ‘thing’ was first seen.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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

THEMES

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.

SYMBOLS

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.

 

 

 

 

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A discussion on the poem ‘A  POISON TREE’

Let’s discuss the poem you need to study – “A Poison Tree” by William Blake

A Poison Tree

I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I watered it in fears,
Night and morning with my tears;
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine.
And he knew that it was mine,

And into my garden stole
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

William Blake

Form and Structure-This poem has been written in four quatrains. This is one of the simplest poetic forms.  Each stanza has a pair of rhyming couplets- aabb. (friend-end; foe-grow; fears-tears; smiles-wiles; night-bright; shine-mine; stole-pole; see-tree).

Language-Overall, the vocabulary is simple. Most of the words in the first stanza are mono syllables. All the lines in the first stanza begin with “I”. This emphasizes that there is something personal and told from an individual point of view.

Understanding the poem:

Stanza 1 opens with how the persona was angry with his friend. He told his friend about his anger and the anger then disappeared. The persona then goes on to describe a scenario when he was angry with his enemy. He did not tell his enemy that he was angry, thus, his anger kept on growing!

In stanza 2, the persona talks more on how his anger grows. He compares his growing anger to a growing plant where he waters the plant with his fears and his tears. However, he did not give it real sunshine. He merely gives smiles and deceitful wiles. A wile is a cunning trick. Here, it suggests that he may be planning some sort of a devious scheme for his enemy- and this deceitful scheme is just like the sunshine for the growing plant.

Stanza 3 describes how the persona’s efforts eventually bore fruit. The fruit is the apple bright. The enemy clearly recognises that the fruit belongs to the persona.

Stanza 4 reveals that the enemy had seen the apple and stole it. The enemy had stolen the apple during the night when it was dark as the “pole” – the North Star was all covered up. Thus, the star was not visible-to guide the enemy out of the danger. The enemy eats the apple and most probably – he dies.

Metaphor-A growing apple tree is an extended metaphor for the growing anger and it shows how destructive anger can be. The title “A Poison Tree” is the central metaphor. The apple has become poisonous as it has been nurtured with anger. In other words, the tree grew with negative emotions. When we stay angry for a long time, we may become “A Poison Tree” (a person full of negative emotions).

 Setting-The persona’s garden. The garden where the apple tree grows. The apple tree that features the apple which lures the enemy.

Symbolism-The apple represents anger. The apple grows large till it ripens. Similarly, anger grows till it becomes vengeance.

Themes:

Managing Anger:  It is not totally wrong to be angry. However, it is rather important for us to know how to deal with anger. If we nurture our anger, it might grow and be harmful to us. In this poem, two ways of handling anger were shown with different outcomes. In the first scenario, the anger disappeared but in the second the anger grew into something aggressive and negative.

 Importance of Communication:  As shown in the poem, if the persona had communicated with his enemy, his anger would have been controlled. However, his refusal to communicate has allowed anger to become something that is very destructive. Therefore it is often better if we can communicate with people on the issues that is bugging us. The poet indirectly is trying to persuade his readers to talk about their anger. We can talk about it not only with our friends but with our enemies too. If we talk, the anger might just reduce and it might just ease our troubles. In turn, it will prevent us from causing hurt unto others.

 Moral Value

The poem tells us about the disastrous consequences of one’s own failure to communicate with another person.

Discussion

The persona could be intentionally helping his anger to grow by refusing communication with his enemy or perhaps he is unconsciously helping his anger to grow as his tears are actually tears of sorrow. This poem was written by William Blake and published in 1794 as part of his “Songs of Experience” collection. The poem describes repressed feelings of anger towards someone where the emotions lead him to murder. Perhaps the poet is exploring the darker side of human beings. When the enemy eats the fruit, he dies and the poet seems to be happy. The apple is the symbolic representation of his unreleased anger. The anger that blossoms into a poisoned fruit. We should ponder on whether this anger has attracted the enemy and in turn has lured him into the garden. Perhaps the enemy has unresolved issues with the owner of the garden and that is the reason for him to try and trespass the garden with the intention of settling the issues – in this case- by stealing the apple that has eventually poisoned him. Looking at another angle; considering the fact that William Blake was a religious man, with biblical reference- Adam and Eve was told not to eat the apple. Eating from the tree was the first sin! Perhaps, that’s the reason for Blake to use an apple tree as his central metaphor.