Headscratchers: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
The ending of the novel's always bothered me. Professor Aronnax, Ned Land and Conseil escape from the Nautilus as it's caught in the Maelstrom and arrive in Norway, and at the time the story ends the three of them are awaiting the arrival of a monthly steamboat. And then the book ends with these words...
And to the question asked by Ecclesiastes 3,000 years ago, "That which is far off and exceeding deep, who can find it out?" two men alone of all now living have the right to give an answer:
CAPTAIN NEMO AND MYSELF.
Settle down, professor. Before you start declaring yourself the new Poseidon, how about taking a look over your shoulder at Ned Land and Conseil? And if we're not counting Captain Nemo for lost, then how about his crew, most of whom were aboard the Nautilus for far longer than Aronnax? I can't for the life of me figure out where this sudden burst of mad egotism comes from, and yet the way it's worded ("two men alone of all now living") rules out any attempt to not take it literally. Why in the world does Aronnax seem to think only he and Nemo really count when it comes to seeing the bottom of the ocean?
I thought exactly the same when I saw the end of the novel, Why Aronnax, model of the humble wise man who is perfectly capable of living dedicated to his work, without fame or riches, being so egostistical? But when I was writing the entry about the Übermensch I realized that it was Fridge Brilliance: Aronnax is not referring to the bottom of the ocean: He is quoting Ecclesiastes 7:24, a passage of the Bible who claims the vanity of those who seek to be wise, powerful and happy, when those things are far for the proud people. He and Captain Nemo were obsessed by his submarine studies and their need to know the truth. Aronnax really has Stockholm Syndrome and hopes that his evasion could be continually postponed even when Ned Land is slowly going insane. Nemo prepares a Message in a Bottle with all the knowledge he has accumulated as a legacy to humanity. They both are egotistic: When Aronnax witness the last of Nemo’s implied many Moral Event Horizon he realizes his folly: Traveling with Captain Nemo is to be accomplice of terrible crimes, and so he decides to attempt the Great Escape as soon as possible after a last interview with Captain Nemo. Meanwhile, Captain Nemo has realized that Aronnax, the only inhabitant of the earth's surface with which empathizes has repudiated his cruelty and and is forced to admit that he is not Above Good and Evil and has a Villainous Breakdown. Counseil, Ned Land and the Nautilus crew are humble people, the first two follow Aronnax and the rest follow the captain. This novel is not only a Sci-Fi GhettoScience Fiction history about a Cool Ship and the marvels of the oceans, is An Aesopabout howThe Professor Aronnax was humbled and so could survive and how the Übermensch Captain Nemo was destroyed himself out of guilt by the Malstrom, another of the very wonders of the ocean he so loved.
I just thought that it was because Nemo and Aronnax were the only scientists on board making a study of the ocean, the only ones who could 'find it out'. But I'm sure the technical answer above is more accurate.
How is it that the Nautilus lacks a medic?
Sperm whales and endangered animals aside, what kind of microscopic penguin do you need to kill several hundred of to feed a crew of under twenty men? Because, of course, Captain Nemo "doesn't like killing animals needlessly."
Maybe they would make penguin jerky to save the rest for prolonged periods without food?
Thinking about it, it's entirely possible Nemo organized the hunting expeditions as a way to allow his crew to let off some steam and stop them from going too stir crazy. Which, by his standards, would be far from needless.