20,000 Leagues under the Sea | Study Guide

Jules Verne

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20,000 Leagues under the Sea | Part 1, Chapters 22–24 | Summary



Part 1, Chapter 22: Captain Nemo's Lightning

Puzzled by the stones, the men turn around and see a large group of natives with bows and slings gathered at the edge of the woods. Under heavy fire, they retreat into the dinghy and row back to the Nautilus unharmed. Dr. Aronnax tracks down Captain Nemo to tell him what happened, but he seems completely unconcerned about the natives. The next morning Dr. Aronnax returns to the platform and observes hundreds of armed natives on the island's beach. He invites Conseil to hunt for shells off the side of the submarine. They are amazed to find a rare left-handed porphyry olive shell, but while they are marveling at it, groups of natives surround the submarine in outrigger canoes. The panicked men return to the submarine to inform Captain Nemo; yet again, he is unbothered by the natives' encroachment. The next day Captain Nemo gives the order to open the hatches. Nearly two dozen natives peer down into the submarine, but every one who attempts to climb into the submarine recoils in agony. Captain Nemo has electrified the handrails. The tide pushes the Nautilus off its perch at exactly 2:40 p.m., just as Captain Nemo had predicted, and it continues its trip to the Indian Ocean.

Part 1, Chapter 23: Ægri Somnia

The Nautilus continues its voyage southwest, threading the northern Australian coast and the large islands of Southeast Asia, such as Timor. As always, the men are dazzled by the exotic fish and marine creatures they see up close from the salon windows. On January 18 a strange incident takes place. While Dr. Aronnax is on the platform surveying an oncoming storm, he witnesses the submarine's first officer arguing with Captain Nemo. The officer, who is intensely agitated, keeps pointing to something on the horizon and speaking aggressively to Captain Nemo, who remains ever calm. Intrigued, Dr. Aronnax retrieves a telescope to see what they are fussing about, but as he goes to look through it, Captain Nemo knocks it out of his hand. Without any further explanation, Captain Nemo orders Dr. Aronnax to "observe one of the engagements which bind you to me": that is, lock himself away until Captain Nemo says all is clear. He, Conseil, and Ned Land return to the room that held them when they first arrived on the Nautilus. They are given lunch and fall deeply asleep, having been unwittingly fed sleeping tablets with their meal.

Part 1, Chapter 24: The Coral Kingdom

Dr. Aronnax awakes the next morning refreshed and lying in his own bed. The door to his room is open, which he takes as a sign he is allowed to move about freely. That afternoon while he is in the salon, Captain Nemo enters and asks if he is a doctor; Dr. Aronnax confirms he trained as a doctor before he joined the museum. Captain Nemo asks if he will treat one his ill crew members, though he does not mention any of the events of the previous night. Dr. Aronnax agrees and is escorted to the stern of the submarine, where a 40-year-old man lies gravely wounded. All Captain Nemo says about his injuries is that the man was hurt while working in the engine room. After examining him, Dr. Aronnax tells Captain Nemo the man has only two hours to live, which causes Captain Nemo to shed a few tears. The next morning Captain Nemo invites Dr. Aronnax and his companions to go diving. This time they walk along a magnificent coral reef. Eventually, the group—which includes many crew members—come to a clearing, which Dr. Aronnax realizes is a cemetery for Captain Nemo's crew. The dead man is buried, and the entire group kneels and prays. Everyone returns to the Nautilus.


Captain Nemo's attitude toward the natives is notably different than Dr. Aronnax's and his companions'. When Dr. Aronnax tries to warn him that the islanders are closing in on the Nautilus, he is both sarcastic and dismissive: "'Savages!' replied Captain Nemo in a sarcastic tone ... 'Where are there not savages, and in any case, are those that you call savages any worse than the others? ... For my part, sir, I have encountered them everywhere.'" Not only is this a defense of the native islanders but, perhaps more importantly, it is a pointed criticism of people in the so-called civilized world who believe they are superior.

Later, Captain Nemo does express some concern—but for the islanders' welfare. "These Papuans are poor wretches after all, and I do not want my visit to Gueboroar Island to cost the life of a single one of these unfortunates!" His sympathy here and his concern for his fatally wounded crew member show him to be a caring man after all. Thus far in the journey, he has struck Dr. Aronnax as remarkably calm and collected, nearly unfeeling, but the incidents in this section clearly show this impression is false.

Captain Nemo's organ makes another prominent appearance in this section, where he is described as "deep in musical ecstasy." Generally, ecstasy refers to extreme happiness. Readers have no real reason to believe anything different, but at the same time, they cannot conclude that Captain Nemo is totally happy. What is clear is the total absorption and total escape from reality the organ provides such that Captain Nemo shivers at human contact.

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