Study Guide: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

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CHAPTER 21: “A Few Days on Land”


When the men finally go on land, it has been two months that they have been “passengers of the Nautilus.” Although, as the narrator observes, they have really been prisoners. The men explore the island, looking for food not available on the vessel--fruit, vegetable, and meat. They find coconuts, a breadfruit tree, and a variety of fruits.

Land, intent on hunting some kind of meat, tries capturing parrots, but to no avail. Conseil is able to kill two birds, and the men eat them for lunch. Conseil also catches a “bird of paradise” for Aronnax. This was not a difficult feat, since the bird was drunk on nutmeg. Land and Conseil enthusiastically kill a boar and kangaroos.

CHAPTER 22: “Captain Nemo’s Lightening”


As the men are discussing going back to the Nautilus or staying, they are hit with a stone. The island natives approach them with stones and bows and arrows and seem very hostile. They are able to escape into their small boat and back to the Nautilus. Aronnax tries to alert Captain Nemo about the “savages” because he is afraid they may try to come to the vessel. Nemo merely says that savages are found everywhere on land, and these men are no worse.

Aronnax continues to observe the Papuans from the platform and notices they are growing in number and coming closer to the Nautilus. Aronnax is slightly uneasy because the hatches of the Nautilus are open and the native could invade the ship. As the natives continue to approach the vessel, they invite Aronnax to come to shore. He declines.

Aronnax dredges the water for shells and when Conseil says the natives seem harmless, Aronnax reminds him they are cannibals. Conseil says one can be a cannibal and a good fellow all the same. Aronnax and Conseil are thrilled by the discovery of an abnormal shell. However, they are devastated when it is broken by the stone of a native. Conseil, in turn, fired a shot at the native from his gun, breaking the native’s bracelets.

The natives advance toward the vessel and fire arrows at it. Aronnax and Conseil escape down the hatch to tell Captain Nemo. Nemo closed the hatches and remained very calm. Aronnax was afraid that the next day, when they had to open the hatches for air, the natives would invade. Nemo still was unshaken. Nemo becomes upset with Aronnax when he mentions that the Nautilus is run aground. Nemo sharply replies that it is not and that it will be prepared to leave tomorrow at 2:40 p.m.

The next day, before departing, Nemo ordered the hatches open. When the Papuans tried to enter, they were thrown back by some invisible force. Apparently, Nemo used the metal staircases leading to the hatches as a metal conductor of electricity--shocking anyone who dare enter. The Papuans retreated and the Nautilus sailed away as planned.

CHAPTER 23: “Ægrie Somnia”


Captain Nemo tells Aronnax of his various experiments with water density and temperature. Aronnax, Land and Conseil are amazed when they enter, far below the surface of the sea, an area of phosphorescence.

One morning, just when life on the Nautilus began to feel normal, a strange thing happened. On the platform, Aronnax did not hear the typical phrase from the crew to which he had grown accustomed. Instead, when he looked up he saw land. When Aronnax tried to look through his telescope, Captain Nemo grew angry. He was a much different Nemo. Nemo was not angry with Aronnax, but was consumed by a hatred produced by something on the shore. Captain Nemo told Aronnax that he and his companions had to be locked up until further notice.

The men occupied their original cell and ate lunch. When the meal was finished, the lights of the vessel suddenly went out. Then, they fell asleep--sleeping tablets had been put in their food.

CHAPTER 24: “The Coral Kingdom”


The next morning the men awoke to find they had been placed into their beds. They were once again free to move about the cabin. When Aronnax finally sees Nemo, he seems distracted and depressed. Nemo asks Aronnax if he is a doctor, since he knows many of his colleagues were. Aronnax says that he was for a while before he joined the museum. Nemo asks him to look at a wounded crewman.

The man’s injuries are terrible. His brain is exposed and he is approaching death. Aronnax is surprised to see Nemo cry when Aronnax tells him the man will die.

The next day Nemo asks the men to go on another underwater excursion. This time they go to the coral kingdom, where among the coral Nemo’s men bury the dead man--in an underwater cemetery.


In this section Aronnax, Conseil and Land encounter savages. In the 19th century, savages were people who did not live in what many Europeans (and many people of European descent) believed was a civilized manner. This meant that the people did not wear Western clothes, or live in the same types of houses as westerners, or follow the same social protocol.

In these chapters we experience a new and evil side of Nemo. He drugs the men into sleep. It is apparent from the dead crew member that something horrible has happened. However, we also see Nemo cry at the man’s death. Nemo is an excellent example of a round character. He is multifaceted. His many sides include capacity for compassion, malice, sorrow, and joy. At the conclusion of Part II, the reader should be aware that the Nautilus and Nemo are involved in something very sinister. At the conclusion of this section there is a definite break in the relationship between Nemo and Aronnax. Aronnax previously believed in the possibility that Nemo was a misunderstood scientist. He revered Nemo’s genius. After the incident in which he was drugged and a man died, Aronnax is convinced that Nemo has an evil underlying purpose of revenge. The next section begins with an air of fear and uncertainty. The captain of this mysterious vessel cannot be trusted.

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