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

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CHAPTER 1: “The Indian Ocean”


This chapter begins what Aronnax calls the second part of the voyage. Aronnax now believes there is more to Nemo than his role as just another misunderstood scientist. Aronnax believes that Nemo is seeking some sort of revenge against mankind, who he hates so passionately.

The Nautilus spends many days traveling through the Indian Ocean. Aronnax thinks they are approaching inhabited land and considers how he will have to end his time in the vessel in order to help his friends escape. As the vessel approaches India Ned Land suggests they take their leave from Captain Nemo; India is populated and they would be able to get home. Aronnax argues that they will be heading toward Europe next and they should wait until they are in their own seas to do anything.

Aronnax is happy to encounter the Argonaut--a mollusk that is supposed to be good luck. Although it is free to leave its shell, it never does. They float through waters that contain many dead bodies--the dead of India. At the end of the chapter, the ship sails through a sea of milk. This white water is produced by glow worms below the surface--many leagues wide.

CHAPTER 2: “A New Suggestion by Captain Nemo”


Captain Nemo suggests to Aronnax that they go to the Gulf of Mannar at Sri Lanka, where men fish for pearls. Nemo warns Aronnax that they will probably encounter sharks, but tells him not to fear. The crew is used to deal with sharks, and they are fun to hunt.

Land and Conseil approach Aronnax, excited about the upcoming adventure. Nemo has only told them of the pearls, not the sharks. The men discuss pearls and their value. Ned Land tells them how he bought a pearl necklace for his fiancée, but she married another man. Aronnax tells Land that the pearls he gave her were fake.

The men turn to talking of finding a great pearl, like that of Captain Nemo’s--displayed in a case. Nonchalantly, Aronnax asks the men if they would be frightened by sharks. Though taken off guard, Land boasts his harpooning skills. Conseil , the ever faithful manservant, says that he will go anywhere Aronnax will go.

CHAPTER 3: “A Pearl Worth Ten Million”


Aronnax spent a fitful night dreaming of sharks. He was awakened at 4 a.m. and met Captain Nemo who told him they would soon be leaving.

When the men reached the pearls, by way of a smaller boat, they donned their diving suits. These were the same suits they wore on their other excursions below the surface--a much more advanced method of diving than the local fishermen employed.

When Aronnax asked for his gun--to defend himself against sharks--Nemo gave him a knife and told him he was better off.

The men saw new and exciting life below the surface. Nemo led them to a submarine crypt in which resided an oyster weighing six hundred pounds. The was a giant pearl, the size of a coconut, inside the oyster. Nemo would not let Aronnax touch the pearl. By leaving the pearl in the oyster, Nemo was allowing it to grow even larger.

Later the men stopped to watch a diver collecting oysters. While the diver was working, a shark came upon him and knocked him out with its tail. Before the shark could eat the diver, Captain Nemo attacked it with his knife. Nemo and the shark battled, until the shark knocked Nemo to the ground. Ned Land sprung to action and killed the shark with his harpoon. Once freed, Nemo went to the Indian diver and brought him to the surface, saving his life. When the man came to, Captain Nemo gave him a string of pearls.

Back on the Nautilus, Aronnax reflected on the captain’s actions, noting that he was not devoid of human emotion. When he mentioned this to the captain, Nemo said that the Indian was his compatriot, a member of that oppressed country.

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