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

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The giant pearl

It is important to note Nemo’s cultivation of the giant pearl. He wants to leave it undisturbed so that it will become greater. This is juxtaposition with the Nautilus. The longer the vessel remains undiscovered the more powerful it becomes. Like the Nautilus, pearls have different kinds of power. Like Land, many men are interested in the financial gain they promise; like the divers, many risk and lose their lives in pursuit of the pearls. However, the peals also have an aesthetic value. For this value, Aronnax prizes them. Similarly, the Nautilus is used for good and evil. Through their experiences on the ship, Captain Nemo and Aronnax will be able to significantly contribute to the scientific community and benefit mankind. However, the ship is also used to destroy humanity

Ned Land’s perfect eyesight

His excellent eye sight is symbolic of his ability to rely on his senses. He has excellent senses--he is able to sleep and read all day because he knows the creature is not near the boat. He does not believe anything that he has not seen or experienced himself-this is a reoccurring theme throughout the novel.

Key Facts

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Jules Verne

Date of first publishing

Meaning of the Title
Refers to traveling thousands of miles under surface of the oceans. Appropriate because of the setting on a submarine. A league is a unit of distance not commonly used today. It is the equivalent of approximately 2.5 to 3.5 miles.

Science-fiction adventure

Point of view
First person-limited

Dr. Pierre Aronnax

Aboard the Nautilus, the submarine vessel designed by Captain Nemo. 1866-1868

Dr. Pierre Aronnax

Captain Nemo

Chapter 22,“Captain Nemo’s Last Words”. The men make the decision to escape from the Nautilus

The men survive the giant whirlpool while Captain Nemo's fate and the fate of the Nautilus remains unknown.

Rising Action
The rising action of the story begins with Nemo’s attack on a warship.

Major Theme
Man versus Nature

Minor Themes
Revenge. Liberty.

The giant pearl, Ned Land's perfect eyesight

Mysterious and dark


Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas contains a plethora of scientific words and measurements that can be confusing:

Acre - a measurement of surface area equal to 43,560 square feet, approximately the size of a football field.
Annelids -
Babiroussa -
A pig from the East Indies
Byssus -
filament that certain mollusks, such as mussels, use to attach themselves to rocks
- any marine mammal classified as a Cetacea. They include dolphins, whales, and porpoises.
Dugong -
A plant-eating marine mammal that has flippers and can be found in the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, and the Pacific Ocean.
Echeneis - a type of fish that adheres to other large fish and vessels with a sucker.
Echinoderm -
a marine invertebrate that has parts radiating symmetrically from its center - for example: a starfish
Fathom -
a nautical measurement for 6 feet or depth from the surface.
Fucus - brown algae
Hydrophytes -
a plant adapted to grow in water
Hyracotherium -
This is an extinct genus of horse
Ichthyologist -
a scientist that studies fish.
Kraken -
A sea monster that is featured in Norwegian legend.
League -
Three miles of distance.
Leviathan - a huge and monstrous sea creature that is discussed in the bible
Narwhal -
An arctic whale with an ivory horn protruding from its head.
Nereocysti -
Giant Seaweed
Oreodon -
An extinct mammal, similar to a deer.
Pintadine - a kind of shellfish, some of which produce pearls
- coelenterate, such as a hydra or coral
Poop -
An enclosed structure at the stem of a ship
Port -
left side of a ship (as one faces the front of the ship)
Starboard -
right side of a ship (as one faces the front of the ship)
Terra firma
- solid, dry ground; land
Zoophytes - invertebrate animals, such as a sea anemone or sponge

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