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Course Hero. "20,000 Leagues under the Sea Study Guide." June 29, 2017. Accessed September 23, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/20000-Leagues-under-the-Sea/.

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Course Hero, "20,000 Leagues under the Sea Study Guide," June 29, 2017, accessed September 23, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/20000-Leagues-under-the-Sea/.

20,000 Leagues under the Sea | Symbols

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Nemo

Captain Nemo's name isn't an accident. In Latin nemo means "no one" or "nobody," which is fitting for a man of such extraordinary mystery. Over the course of the story, he reveals almost nothing about himself, his personal history, or why he decided to live out his years as a submarine captain. There are occasional indirect references to terrible events from his past—for example, "it is because of them" he has lost everything. (Who exactly are them?) Even after nearly 10 months onboard the submarine, Dr. Aronnax is barely any closer to understanding Captain Nemo than the day he entered it. At times they have connected over their shared interest in science and the natural world, but by the time Dr. Aronnax makes his escape, he has seen a malignant side of the captain that throws all of his earlier impressions into doubt. From beginning to end, Captain Nemo is a cipher—just like his name.

Captain Nemo's Piano Organ

Captain Nemo is a deeply self-possessed man, but you wouldn't know it from his piano organ playing. He doesn't play the salon instrument very often over the course of the 20,000-league journey. However, when Captain Nemo does play it, he is either in the throes of elation or despair. The first time the professor spots him playing is after Dr. Aronnax and Conseil return from visiting Gueboroar Island; he observes the captain is "bent over his organ, deep in musical ecstasy."

The next two incidences, however, are completely different. When the Nautilus passes through the Sargasso Sea on its way to the South Pole, the atmosphere onboard has deteriorated significantly. Ned Land is ready to revolt, and even Dr. Aronnax is feeling the pangs of depression. Captain Nemo is rarely seen or heard from, with the exception of "the melancholy sounds of his organ, which he played with much expression, but only at night." Finally, as Dr. Aronnax crawls through the salon in the dark on his way to escape the submarine for good, he hears the captain playing the organ and sobbing, mourning either his family or the terrible deed he just committed.

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