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Literature / 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

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"That which is far off, and exceeding deep, who can find it out?"
Ecclesiastes 7:24

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is an 1869 adventure novel by Jules Verne. It scores a solid 5 on Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness and has a strong focus on technology, existentialism, and marine biology.

During a visit to America, Professor Aronnax, a famous French marine biologist, is invited to join a US Navy expedition in the hunt for a mysterious sea monster (believed to be a giant narwhal) that has attacked and damaged two ships. Once they find the narwhal, it attacks, causing Aronnax, his trusty manservant Conseil and Ned Land, the ship's Canadian harpoonist, to fall overboard (well, Conseil jumped, to rescue the Professor). They clamber onto the only dry spot in the sea, namely the narwhal's back, expecting to drown as soon as it dives. Then a hatch opens...

The mysterious narwhal is in fact not a whale, but a high-tech electric submarine, owned and designed by the mysterious and eccentric Captain Nemo. While refusing to put our heroes ashore, he lets them live, and takes them on a fantastic journey under the seas of the world, showing them the many wonders of the world beneath the waves. Aronnax finds himself torn between his passionate interest in marine biology and his desire for freedom - should he try to escape with his comrades or stay and find out why Nemo sails around the world, sinking British and American ships?


The novel has a sequel, The Mysterious Island, which tells Nemo's Back Story.

Fun fact that people sometimes forget: the title refers to the distance the Nautilus travels horizontally over the course of the book, not the depth it dives to. 20,000 leagues vertically would be impossible, being 80,000 kilometersnote , or twice the circumference of the Earth. The translation is partly to blame; a closer translation would be Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the 'Seas', which is sometimes used in more modern translations. A Saturday Night Live sketch with guest host Kelsey Grammar as Nemo lampshaded this misconception.

The book is now out of copyright, and the original French text can be obtained from Project Gutenberg here. This English translation, done by Verne scholar Frederick Paul Walter, is a modern, highly accurate translation of the book, free of the errors that many other editions of the book have. Alternatively, check out the most common edition here. This translation, done by the Reverend Lewis Page Mercier, is widely considered to be the worst translation of the book; it is riddled with errors and censorship, as well as incorrect numbers (for example, the density of steel is given as .7 to .8 times that of water, while Verne really wrote 7.8 times that of water, which is the correct value). Sadly, it is also the most common translation - check your bookshelves for this version!


This also allowed life-long fan and mini-submarines builder Pat Regan to publish a sequel (mostly inspired by Disney's movie), titled Vulcanium.

The best-known adaptation of the novel is the 1954 live-action Disney film.

The novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea shows examples of the following tropes:

  • Abnormal Ammo: The Nautilus crew's armament of choice is an air-rifle that fires a glass bullet containing a small capacitor. When the glass shatters, the capacitor unleashes its charge, instantly killing the target.
  • Above Good and Evil: What Captain Nemo claims to be. He really isn't. See Übermensch below.
  • Absent-Minded Professor: Aronnax has this a few times. One chapter has him declare a book he's been engrossed in for several hours as utterly brilliant, which Conseil is bemused by. When Aronnax asks what's so funny, Conseil tells him to check the spine to see who wrote it... turns out, it was Aronnax himself, and he'd completely forgotten about it.
  • Adapted Out: This is often the fate of Conseil in adaptations after the 1954 Disney version. Even in that one, he isn't very much like his book counterpart. In more recent adaptations, Conseil is often replaced with an original character who may be a Token Minority (often with Politically Correct History thrown in). Sometimes, the replacement character is Conseil In Name Only. Whatever the case, this replacement character is typically not just a servant to Arronax, but rather his (or sometimes her) own person. This may have to do with Values Dissonance. note  or simply the fact that Conseil in the book was given little characterization other than his encyclopedic knowledge of zoology and his devotion to his master Arronax.
  • An Aesop:
  • Affably Evil: Deconstructed by Captain Nemo, who is a genuinely noble Nice Guy who has access to technology enjoyed by none else. How can a truly good man cross the Moral Event Horizon? Because he is slowly but surely losing his sanity through the novel, and in the end he becomes a Death Seeker.
  • All-Loving Hero: Professor Aronnax is a humble Wide-Eyed Idealist scientist that already had won the Undying Loyalty of Counseil before he comes to the Nautilus, he also makes Ned Land do a More Expendable Than You sacrifice when they are in the Pole, and he is ultimately the reason why Captain Nemo gets his Villainous Breakdown when Aronnax discovers the Nautilus is a Weapon of Mass Destruction.
  • Almost Out of Oxygen: When the Nautilus is trapped under the Antarctic ice. Verne, however, did his research. Oxygen is not a problem, due to the Nautilus having plenty of electricity and water around, but without caustic potash to bind the carbon dioxide the heroes are screwed anyway.
  • Anti-Villain: Nemo. His hatred of the British is perfectly understandable, given his Back Story. However, attacking civilians for happening to be on a ship flying the wrong colours...
  • Artifact of Doom: The Nautilus is this for Captain Nemo: by using it as a Weapon of Mass Destruction, Nemo discovers that With Great Power Comes Great Insanity.
  • Atlantis: Captain Nemo shows Professor Aronnax the ruins of Atlantis.
  • Atlantis Is Boring: There is a discussion over whether this trope applies or not to this novel.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Discussed. When Nemo is telling Aronnax about his vast riches, extracting gold from seawater is mentioned, but it would cost so much as to turn little, if any, profit. Especially when using advanced diving suits to get it from sunken wrecks is so much easier.
  • Battle Butler: Conseil.
  • Beard of Evil: Nemo is depicted with a beard in the 1954 Disney film version (probably the most well-known adaptation) and pretty much every adaptation afterwards.
    • He had a beard before that as well, in the 1916 black and white silent adaptation (which merged it with the sequel, The Mysterious Island into one story, as if the events all took place simultaneously, though the sequel was supposed to be many years later), Nemo has a beard, as well as wearing Blackface.
    • The beard already appeared in the original illustrations of the book, since the artist used Colonel Charas as a model - fitting as Charas' life was somewhat similar to Nemo's, and he may also have been Verne's inspiration for the character.
  • Beauty = Goodness: Lampshaded when Wide-Eyed Idealist Aronnax uses physiognomy to justify that a stocky character is a fool and the good–looking man is someone good, but rethinks this theory when the good–looking man (Captain Nemo) left him starving with their companions in a cell. Also Deconstructed later on when Aronnax begins seeing just how dangerous Nemo is...
    A disciple of such character–judging anatomists as Gratiolet or Engel could have read this man's features like an open book. Without hesitation, I identified his dominant qualities—self–confidence, since his head reared like a nobleman's above the arc formed by the lines of his shoulders, and his black eyes gazed with icy assurance; calmness, since his skin, pale rather than ruddy, indicated tranquility of blood; energy, shown by the swiftly knitting muscles of his brow; and finally courage, since his deep breathing denoted tremendous reserves of vitality.
    I might add that this was a man of great pride, that his calm, firm gaze seemed to reflect thinking on an elevated plane, and that the harmony of his facial expressions and bodily movements resulted in an overall effect of unquestionable candor—according to the findings of physiognomists, those analysts of facial character.
    I felt "involuntarily reassured" in his presence, and this boded well for our interview.
  • Berserk Button: Ned Land discovers that he must never surrender to The Empire while Nemo is The Captain of the Nautilus.
  • Big Eater: Ned Land, whose only interest in an any wildlife species seems to run entirely in a culinary direction.
  • The Butcher: Ned Land accuses Nemo of this when Nemo Kicks The Cachalots in a massacre.
  • Broken Pedestal: After spending the novel swimming in Stockholm Syndrome for Captain Nemo, Aronnax sees him crossing the Moral Event Horizon in a terrible Kick the Dog moment. And yet...
    I returned to the saloon, fearing and yet hoping to see Captain Nemo, wishing and yet not wishing to see him. What could I have said to him? Could I hide the involuntary horror with which he inspired me? No. It was better that I should not meet him face to face; better to forget him. And yet—
  • Canada, Eh?: Although the narration constantly reminds us that Ned Land is Canadian, he actually doesn't fit the modern stereotype in that he's loud, arrogant, and rather meatheaded (and whistles "Yankee Doodle"). It's entirely possible that he's a transplanted American who ended up living in Canada one way or another. Although for a Canadian harpoonist it fits, lumberjacks and fishermen aren't the shy ones even in Canada (even Yankee Doodle kind of make sense given how the culture between both countries were open even back then)
  • The Captain: Deconstructed with Nemo, he is so charismatic a captain and so loved by his crew that nobody notices his Villainous Breakdown.
  • Character Filibuster: Arronax tends to go off on long digressions about various species of marine life he's observed, interrupting the adventure story of which he's one of the main characters.
  • Chromosome Casting: Almost the entire book takes place on the Nautilus, which has only male crew members.
  • Closed Circle: Even when the Nautilus travels around the whole world, Professor Aronnax,Conseil and Ned Land are confined to the submarine. They only talk with Captain Nemo (all the other crew talk a secret language).
  • Completely Unnecessary Translator: A variation occurs when Professor Aronnax, Conseil and Ned Land failing to understand the language used by their captors, try to talk to them in their respective native languages (French, German (Conseil is Dutch, but presumably uses German because Dutch is a very rare language outside of The Netherlands) and English, respectively). When their captors didn’t react, Aronnax attempted to speak Latin without success. In a second interview, the man that later presented himself as Captain Nemo told them:
    ...After some moments of silence, which not one of us dreamed of breaking, "Gentlemen," said he, in a calm and penetrating voice, "I speak French, English, German, and Latin equally well. I could, therefore, have answered you at our first interview, but I wished to know you first, then to reflect…”
  • Conlang: Subverted because even when the Nautilus crew uses a language that Professor Aronnax cannot recognize, Verne didn’t bother himself making any words of it except "Nautron respoc lorni virch." that Aronnax thinks must mean: "There's nothing in sight.". Aronnax describes the language like this:
    "… a language I didn't recognize. It was a sonorous, harmonious, flexible dialect whose vowels seemed to undergo a highly varied accentuation".
    • Given that the Nautilus crew is a N.G.O. Superpower, it makes sense this language is a Conlang Completely Original, designed to substitute all the other “continental” languages that were original to each of the crew countries that the crew has abandoned. Aronnax observes that just moments before his death, one of the crew forgets to use that Conlang and ask for help in French. A hungry Ned Land also theorizes:
    "Don't you see, these people have a language all to themselves, a language they've invented just to cause despair in decent people who ask for a little dinner! Why, in every country on earth, when you open your mouth, snap your jaws, smack your lips and teeth, isn't that the world's most understandable message? From Quebec to the Tuamotu Islands, from Paris to the Antipodes, doesn't it mean: I'm hungry, give me a bite to eat!"
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Played for Laughs with Ned Land: As a professional fisher, he doesn’t believe in Sea monsters (giant narwhales or octopus), but he believes that his captors could be cannibals, that the language spoken in the Nautilus is a conspiracy to let him die of hunger (see Conlang) and in Artificial Human:
    "Haven't seen or heard a thing!" the Canadian replied. "I haven't even spotted the crew of this boat. By any chance, could they be electric too?"
    "Oh ye gods, I'm half tempted to believe it!"
  • Cool Ship: The Nautilus, which has a greater range than any existing non-nuclear submarine.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Conseil can rattle off any animal or plant's exact order, class, phylum, genus and species, but only once he's told their name, being unable to actually identify a single one.
  • Death Seeker: As Nemo's mental health deteriorates through the course of the story, he becomes more reckless.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: In-Universe: Ned Land asks Captain Nemo’s permission to hunt some whales. Nemo denies it and he accuses Ned of being an Egomaniac Hunter. Next they see some cachalots and Nemo destroys them using the ''Nautilus''’ spur. When Ned accuses Nemo as being The Butcher, Nemo answers that the cachalots were mischievous creatures and the Nautilus is his weapon. Verne shows us that no matter how much mistaken is the philosophy of Great White Hunter, they will never do the damage that the Ubersmench can do using science.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Conseil and Arronax geek out over a seashell that twists left-handedly instead of to the right. When a lucky shot from one of the attacking natives shatters it, Conseil promptly picks up a gun and shoots the man.
  • The Dividual: Arronax believes that Ned and Conseil together would have made a remarkable naturalist (the former can identify most of the sea creatures they see, the latter can classify them in seconds).
  • Dysfunction Junction: There are only four principal characters in the novel due to the Closed Circle: Conseil has so much Undying Loyalty that he considers himself an extension of his employer. Professor Aronnax practically swims in Stockholm Syndrome, Captain Nemo has a slow Villainous Breakdown caused by him, a good man, crossing once and again the Moral Event Horizon. Ned Land slowly Goes Mad From The Isolation.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: In all of the book, Ned Land opines Captain Nemo is a despot and the Power Trio must attempt the Great Escape as soon as possible. Professor Aronnax and Conseil are impressed with Nemo and their incredible voyage, and it's not until they see Nemo crossing the Moral Event Horizon before they realize Ned was the Only Sane Man.
  • Egomaniac Hunter: Captain Nemo accuses Ned Land of being one when Ned ask him permission to hunt whales only because he wants to.
    "And to what purpose?" replied Captain Nemo; "only to destroy! We have nothing to do with the whale-oil on board."
    "But, sir," continued the Canadian, "in the Red Sea you allowed us to follow the dugong."
    "Then it was to procure fresh meat for my crew. Here it would be killing for killing's sake. I know that is a privilege reserved for man, but I do not approve of such murderous pastime. In destroying the southern whale (like the Greenland whale, an inoffensive creature), your traders do a culpable action, Master Land. They have already depopulated the whole of Baffin's Bay, and are annihilating a class of useful animals. Leave the unfortunate cetacea alone. They have plenty of natural enemies—cachalots, swordfish, and sawfish—without you troubling them."
  • Egopolis: Captain Nemo displays a variant when he claims an entire continent for himself, acting like a sovereign (but see Exactly What It Says on the Tin below):
    ...Well now! In 1868, on this 21st day of March, I myself, Captain Nemo, have reached the South Pole at 90°, and I hereby claim this entire part of the globe, equal to one–sixth of the known continents."
    "In the name of which sovereign, Captain?"
    "In my own name, sir!"
    So saying, Captain Nemo unfurled a black flag bearing a gold "N" on its quartered bunting. Then, turning toward the orb of day, whose last rays were licking at the sea's horizon:
    "Farewell, O sun!" he called. "Disappear, O radiant orb! Retire beneath this open sea, and let six months of night spread their shadows over my new domains!"
  • Enclosed Space: Subverted because Nemo let the Power Trio explore land where an escape would be more dangerous than Nemo's hospitality in the Nautilus.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Aronnax at one point finds Nemo privately weeping in front of a portrait of (what is implied to be) his dead wife and children.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: While the earlier English translations tend to mess up many of Verne's measurements, the original French version is an account of a journey of 20,000 lieues, which is translated into English as "leagues". As is common with many early measurements, the exact definition of a "lieue" or "league" varies, but there is internal evidence in the story that Verne was using a metric lieue of 4 kilometres. (On multiple instances he gives distances in both lieues and nautical miles, which correspond exactly, if a "lieue" is 4km.)
    • Nemo reclaims the South Pole in his name. That means that no one owns the South Pole.
  • Expy: Captain Nemo is an expy for Odysseus: A great sailor, The Captain of a ship who commanded a Red Shirt crew, that claimed he was “No One”, who fought against beings he cannot defeat (Nemo against The Empire, Odysseus against Jerkass Gods) motivated by You Can't Go Home Again.
  • Fiction 500: Captain Nemo brags to Professor Aronnax that he is so rich, he could pay France's entire national debt. Later Aronnax discovers this is the truth in Vigo Bay: The superior tech of the Nautilus lets Nemo reclaim all the treasures lost to man in shipwrecks, before any other treasure hunter.
  • Food Porn: Verne spares no detail in describing the food that the characters eat.
  • Foreign Queasine: Subverted: The food served ship-side is fish and seafood only, and the heroes are somewhat reluctant to try lightly grilled sea-cucumbers and dolphin-liver ragout. However, Nemo's chef is apparently something of a genius and can crank out very tasty meals of whatever he is given to work with.
  • Foreshadowing:
  • For Science!: While Captain Nemo's motivation is For Revenge, Professor Aronnax is willing to sacrificing his freedom for the rest of his life For Science!. Thankfully, he is not willing to sacrifice his friends’ freedom.
  • Freudian Excuse: Nemo. His wife and children were executed by the British because he fought on the losing side during the Sepoy Uprising.
  • Freudian Slip: Aronnax, whilst having a discussion about oysters and pearls shortly after being informed that they were going shark hunting, says that some larger oysters have been claimed to contain up to 150 sharks.
  • From My Own Personal Garden: Captain Nemo informs his prisoners that everything they are eating was taken from the ocean. Exaggerated because everything there is in the Nautilus is from the Ocean: the energy, the clothes, the cigars...
  • Giant Squid: The crew of Nautilus (and Ned Land) fight half a dozen giant squid, one having wrapped itself around the submarine. It is the most recognisable point after Nemo and the Nautilus themselves and is a standard fixture in any adaptation.
  • Gilded Cage: Captain Nemo explains to Aronnax:
    "You said that we should be free on board."
    "I ask you, then, what you mean by this liberty?"
    "Just the liberty to go, to come, to see, to observe even all that passes here save under rare circumstances—the liberty, in short, which we enjoy ourselves, my companions and I."
    It was evident that we did not understand one another.
    "Pardon me, sir," I resumed, "but this liberty is only what every prisoner has of pacing his prison. It cannot suffice us."
    "It must suffice you, however."
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: After seven months of not talking with any other human being except Captain Nemo, Professor Aronnax and Battle Butler Conseil, the independent and Book Dumb Ned Land, not interested in submarine investigation, is slowly going insane.
    I'll also mention that the Canadian, at the end of his strength and patience, made no further appearances. Conseil couldn't coax a single word out of him and feared that, in a fit of delirium while under the sway of a ghastly homesickness, Ned would kill himself. So he kept a devoted watch on his friend every instant.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Empire that slaughtered Nemo's family, the hunting of whom is a large part of what drove Nemo to become the dangerous man he is. The sequel confirms them to be the British Empire, whom Verne's predominantly French audience would have largely thought of as a Greater-Scope Villain in much of Real Life, too.
  • Great Escape: Aronnax, Counseil and Ned Land are prisoners in the Nautilus. To regain their freedom, they must attempt a successful Great Escape because there will not be a second chance.
  • Great White Hunter: Ned Land.
  • Handshake Refusal: Professor Aronnax gets this treatment with Captain Nemo. Nemo doesn't distrust Aronnax, it's just to show how far Nemo has been subject to Madden Into Misanthropy:
    I thought the commander would offer me his hand, to seal our agreement. He did nothing of the sort. I regretted that.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Goes along with the Stockholm Syndrome and the Ho Yay. For example;
    This man was certainly the most admirable specimen I had ever met.
  • Heel Realization: After Captain Nemos Kick the Dog moment, Wide-Eyed Idealist Aronnax realizes the true price of his travels with Captain Nemo:
    "He had made me, if not an accomplice, at least an eyewitness to his vengeance! Even this was intolerable."
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Captain Nemo Majored in Western Hypocrisy and wants revenge against The Empire. He creates an N.G.O. Superpower with a Oddly Small Organization with her own Conlang, he claims a continent in his name, creates the Nautilus to conquer the sea and to use it as a Weapon of Mass Destruction, insists in only using sea related products, and the prisoners he considers valuable are placed in a Gilded Cage but those who not are mercilessly destroyed. Trying to destroy The Empire, he ends creating a society very much like it.
  • He Knows Too Much: The reason Aronnax, Conseil and Ned Land will remain prisoners of the Nautilus and cannot come back to Civilization. Ever. (Captain Nemo lets them abandon the Nautilus and explore land, but it is always on uncivilized shores). Captain Nemo explains:
    "... You came to surprise a secret which no man in the world must penetrate—the secret of my whole existence. And you think that I am going to send you back to that world which must know me no more? Never! In retaining you, it is not you whom I guard—it is myself."
  • Hidden Depths: All of the main characters, from Ned Land (who is surprisingly knowledgeable about marine life despite his Book Dumb personality) to Nemo (see Wicked Cultured) show this at times.
  • Humans Are Bastards & Everything's Even Worse with Sharks: Captain Nemo adheres to this belief:
    "Your dead sleep quietly, at least, Captain, out of the reach of sharks."
    "Yes, sir, of sharks and men," gravely replied the Captain.
    • And himself demonstrates it multiple times in the novel.
  • Hunter of Monsters: Ned Land accuses Nemo of being The Butcher after observing him massacring the cachalots. Captain Nemo claims to be hunting dangerous plagues.
    "Well, sir," replied the Canadian, whose enthusiasm had somewhat calmed; "it is a terrible spectacle, certainly. But I am not a butcher. I am a hunter, and I call this a butchery."
    "It is a massacre of mischievous creatures," replied the Captain; "and the Nautilus is not a butcher's knife."
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Conseil, at least when it comes to cataloging wildlife.
  • I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder: After Nemo Kicks The Cachalots and asks Ned Land his opinion, Ned claims to be a hunter and not a butcher.
  • I Am the Noun: Captain Nemo:
    "I am the law, and I am the judge! I am the oppressed, and there is the oppressor!"
  • Idiot Hero: Verne's writing constantly informs us (and Conseil and Aronnax repeatedly lampshade) that Ned Land is a Hot-Blooded, Great White Hunter, Big Eater Real Men Eat Meat Book Dumb badass who is from Canada. Ned Land's personality also makes him the Only Sane Man capable of resisting Captain Nemo's charisma.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Ned Land (jokingly) threatens to eat Conseil if he doesn't get something other than fish to eat soon.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: The Nautilus's primary weapon is a ramming spur. Nemo has no compunctions about using it against wildlife he doesn't like or against shipping that's flying the flags of nations he doesn't approve of.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Nemo's electric bullets kill anything in one hit except cephalopods, where it just goes right through.
  • I Owe You My Life: Ned Land saves Nemo from a shark early on, and later is saved in turn from a giant squid.
  • Ironic Echo: When the Nautilus is stranded, Nemo refers to it as an incident, not an accident. When trapped beneath the ice in the South Pole, Arronax asks again, only to be told this time it's an accident.
  • Ironic Name: Conseil (Advice or counsel, in French) never gives advice, be he asked to or not.
  • Is It Something You Eat?: Stock line from Ned Land, whose only interest in wildlife is culinary.
  • Just Between You and Me: Subverted because Nemo never shares the evil part of his Evil Plan with Aronnax, just because he is ashamed of it. However, Nemo is constantly sharing all the information about the Nautilus and his scientific investigations about the Sea with Professor Aronnax, not because he will kill him, but because Nemo pretends that Aronnax will never abandon the Nautilus.
    Is it indiscreet to ask how you discovered this tunnel?"
    "Sir," the captain answered me, "there can be no secrets between men who will never leave each other."
    I ignored this innuendo and waited for Captain Nemo's explanation.
  • Kick the Dog: Captain Nemo is implied to have destroyed ships with civilians and military crew, but the act of following up an attack with the Nautilus observing the horrible death of all the unnamed ship's crew on purpose, without losing any detail, is when Nemo crosses the Moral Event Horizon.
    ... The sea was covered with mutilated bodies. A formidable explosion could not have divided and torn this fleshy mass with more violence. We were floating amid gigantic bodies, bluish on the back and white underneath, covered with enormous protuberances. Some terrified cachalots were flying towards the horizon. The waves were dyed red for several miles, and the Nautilus floated in a sea of blood..
  • Lightning Can Do Anything: The Nautilus runs entirely on electrical power, as do Nemo's guns, to Arronax's amazement. Modern readers, on the other hand...
  • Long List: Arronax goes into long descriptions of the sealife he encounters.
  • Madden Into Misanthropy: When Aronnax calls out Captain Nemo about the cruelty implied in never letting them go out of the Nautilus, Captain Nemo answers:
    "What! We must give up seeing our homeland, friends, and relatives ever again?"
    "Yes, sir. But giving up that intolerable earthly yoke that some men call freedom is perhaps less painful than you think!"
  • Majored in Western Hypocrisy:
    "You're an engineer, then, Captain Nemo?"
    "Yes, professor," he answered me. "I studied in London, Paris, and New York back in the days when I was a resident of the Earth's continents."
  • Meaningful Name: "Nemo" is Latin for "no one".
    • Also Greek for "I give what is due".
    • Ned Land. He wishes more strongly than any of the other captives to return to terra firma.
    • Conseil is French for "counsel", meaning advice. Inverted because Conseil doesn't like to give advice. This is lampshaded by the Professor himself.
  • Meaningful Rename: Captain Nemo gave himself this name after he left the land.
  • Message in a Bottle: Captain Nemo plans to use one to assure his research is not lost:
    "Here, Professor Aronnax, is a manuscript written in several languages. It contains a summary of my research under the sea, and God willing, it won't perish with me. Signed with my name, complete with my life story, this manuscript will be enclosed in a small, unsinkable contrivance. The last surviving man on the Nautilus will throw this contrivance into the sea, and it will go wherever the waves carry it.".
  • Milkman Conspiracy: Deconstructed by the Nautilus crew, a truly new society with N.G.O. Superpower status is composed of… less than sixty persons. Less than four years after its creation, their existence has been discovered by The Empire, all the Western nations have organized against them and are chasing them implacably, their numbers dwindle because of this and because of normal accidents on the sea, and their leader, charismatic Captain Nemo, not only is bitterly conscious that their days are numbered (he plans to use a Message in a Bottle so all his sea research could be found), but is slowly breaking down due to using a Weapon of Mass Destruction to cross the Moral Event Horizon repeatedly.
  • Mistaken Nationality: Subverted, The novel emphasizes the mystery of Captain Nemo hiding his nationality. Even when his eyes are black and his skin is pale, Aronnax lampshades that he is not sure invoking Interchangeable Asian Cultures
    ”I admit that the nationality of the two strangers is hard to determine. Neither English, French, nor German, that is quite certain. However, I am inclined to think that the commander and his companion were born in low latitudes. There is southern blood in them. But I cannot decide by their appearance whether they are Spaniards, Turks, Arabians, or Indians" note 
    • Originally, the idea of Verne was to make Nemo a polish noble, exiled by the Russian Empire. But at that time Russia was an ally of France, so due to the censorship the editor (Hetzel) rejected the idea. Verne, aggravated by this decision, resorted to not mentioning Nemo's origins.
  • Mobile Menace: The power of the Nautilus: In 1869, a submarine can journey to any part of the seas and destroy any ship!
    Moving within the moving element! It was a highly appropriate motto for this underwater machine, so long as the preposition in is translated as within and not upon.
  • Monster Whale: Cachalots are described as hulking monstrosities who are mostly teeth and jaws. Anyone not familiar with archaic species names might be forgiven for thinking that Jules Verne was describing mythical beasts rather than sperm whales. That being said, this is a bit of a deconstruction, as Nemo's wanton slaughter of them to protect a pod of baleen whales is not portrayed in a positive light: the professional harpooner Ned Land doesn't bother hiding his contempt over this, and the massacre serves as an early indicator of Nemo's less savory side. The message is clear: even if they are monstrous, that doesn't give humans the right to massacre them wholesale.
  • Moral Event Horizon: In-Universe, the event that finally causes Arronax to agree that they need to bail is when they witness the Nautilus ramming an unidentified nation's ship. Nemo seems aware of it too, seeing as he sets sail for the Maelstrom soon after.
  • More Expendable Than You: Played straight by Conseil and Ned Land when they give Aronnax some precious oxygen in the Almost Out of Oxygen situation, then conversed:
    "Good lord, Professor," Ned Land answered me, "don't mention it! What did we do that's so praiseworthy? Not a thing. It was a question of simple arithmetic. Your life is worth more than ours. So we had to save it."
  • Motive Rant: Captain Nemo gives one to Professor Aronnax when he tries to convince him not to Kick the Dog, and could be considered the beginning of Nemo's Villainous Breakdown:
    "I am the law, and I am the judge! I am the oppressed, and there is the oppressor! Through him I have lost all that I loved, cherished, and venerated — country, wife, children, father, and mother. I saw all perish! All that I hate is there! Say no more!"


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