Aronnax is the main character, narrator, and protagonist of this novel. He is a classic pedant. He makes obscure references, greatly respects social protocol, and refuses to base his relationship with the world around him on his senses-- he relies entirely on what he reads and rationalizes. His name is strikingly close to the word arrogant, and he is very arrogant--about his intellect and his nationality. He is an astute observer of nationality and appears quite biased.
Throughout the course of this novel Aronnax slowly overcomes, or at least eases many of these faults. His major conflict is his confrontation with the Nautilus :when he has to choose to between science and humanity, between learning as much as he can and losing his heart in the process or trusting his fellow man and his own senses, he chooses the latter.
Ned Land serves as a foil of Pierre Aronnax. Land has perfect eyesight,
meaning he trust what he sees before him, instead of what he hears from
others. Land prefers to engage reality, not consider hypothetical possibilities.
While Aronnax wants to observe sea life, Land wants to hunt it.
Nemo is the antagonist of the novel. He presents the situation that
causes Aronnax to change: he creates the Nautilus. Nemo is the
most complex character in this book. He appears to be a mysterious and
sinister character. However, he frequently portrays compassion and sorrow.
He is always brilliant. Even at the end of the story, we do not know very
much about him besides he has retreated from land to avenge the lives
of his wife and children. In Latin, Nemo means nobody. This is very true
of the captain. He cannot be identified by a name--he asks them to call
him Nemo, which appears to be a self-appointed name. We never find out
his nationality, which is a very important quality to the narrator.
Ned Land's name obviously comes from Land, meaning terra firma as
Verne often calls it. Ned Land is a harpooner by trade; he hunts what
is in the sea, he is attached to the Land. He is also much earthier
than Aronnax. He does not possess the same social graces, and he lacks
Aronnax refined knowledge of academic philosophy and culture. Yet, in
the end it is Land's action that frees them from the ship--not Aronnax's
slow and deliberate plan to reason with Captain Nemo.
In French conseil means counsel. Aronnax tells us that his manservant never offers counsel. However, this seems to be another example of Aronnax's arrogance, because Conseil frequently counsels the others. He is very tactful however, and usually prefaces his advice with If monsieur pleases. Verne also had a friend named Jacques-Francoise Conseil who tested a submarine very similar to the Nautilus in 1858.
Conseil is more or less a flat character. The only side of his personality
that the reader really sees is his faithful and serving disposition. He
is frequently a humorous character, who is consistently calm and supportive
of his master.
The plot of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas is essentially simple: Three men set out to capture and explain the unexplainable. Instead they are captured and encounter a brilliant madman who travels the seas seeking revenge and beauty. The men cannot continue in such a manner, so they risk their lives to free themselves.
A good portion of this novel is mere entertainment. Verne spends paragraphs explaining geography and marine life. These descriptions do little to advance the plot except when characterization is revealed through their observation.
The real genius of this work, besides its incessant entertainment, lies
in its ability to present technological advancement as the potential demise
of man. This is an unnerving subject for the 19th century world which
was riding high on the effects of the spreading Industrial Revolution.
The exposition of the novel occurs in the first chapter. In this chapter
we meet Pierre Aronnax, the main character and we are presented with the
major concern of the novel--something malicious is destroying innocent
ach encounter the men have with Nemo bring them closer to their ultimate
need to escape his grasp. Each event presents a different side of Nemo,
and thus influences the men's impression of the captain and their situation.
The climax occurs when the men try to escape. This is a monumental decision
because it presents a case in which Aronnax is trusting his own senses
and those of Land. Furthermore, Aronnax is abandoning the possibility
of further study because he cannot be involved in the maliciousness of
the Nautilus. Here we realize that even though Aronnax saw himself
becoming a fanatic, like Nemo, about life on the vessel and its scientific
pursuit, it is not worth it for him to remain involved with the slaughter
of innocent men.
The mood of this novel is mysterious. At the book's resolution, the reader
is not entirely aware of everything. Captain Nemo, who is cloaked in anonymity,
remains so at the novel's end.