Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea - Jules Verne Another book on my quest to rediscover the childhood joys of reading Jules Verne and to hopefully find some adult insights that were hidden from me as a child.

I think I may have loved it a little less as an adult but it is still a marvelous adventure travelogue. As a child, Jules Verne's colorful descriptions of undersea wonders opened my eyes and mind. Now I still think they are amazing but I see it as a 18th century costume adventure. Unlike a lot of readers, I found Verne's listings quite marvelous to read. Yet, this time I was also more aware of the relationship between Professor Aronnax and Ned Land, the Canadian harpooner. Each of these characters present opposites. Aronnax is sophisticated, learned, and a bit arrogant. Ned Land is uneducated, brutish, quick-tempered but comfortable with himself. But Aronnax is often wrong in his conclusions and Land is often right! In the early part of the novel, Aronnax is trying to convince the skeptical Land that a sea creature powerful enough to destroy a ship can exist. He sets out a formula showing how immense a serpent needs to be in order to withstand underwater pressure, to which Land exclaims, "Why they must made of iron plates eight inches thick!" And in fact Ned is right and Aronnax wrong. The sea serpent is not a live monster at all but a submarine with eight inches of iron plate! Often, Ned's practicability wins out yet I think Verne was often demonstrating that essences of both intellect and common sense need to work together in order to be victorious.

And of course there is Captain Nemo. He is and remains a cipher. He represents both nihilism and misguided idealism. Nemo wants a perfect world but is reduced to self-exile and perhaps even self-loathing. Nemo is the mirror in which the other character see themselves. He is both one of the most memorable personages in literature yet also one of the most mysterious and perplexing.

So Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea remains a wonderful sci-fi adventure tale even taking in its antiquity. But I also enjoyed the characters of this novel more the second time around and was able to catch the marvelous nuances which Verne placed on them.