Monday, January 23, 2017

He Who Rules the Oceans is No One

As much I love adventure novels, I truly have no excuse for reading Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne so late in my life. This classic novel by Jules Verne is a grand mixture of suspense, history and adventure as three men from different backgrounds meet a man who is unlike any man they'd ever met.

After several sightings of a mysterious new fish in the oceans, Professor Aronnax and his servant Conseil, and Ned Land, a fierce and courageous harpooner, take to the warship Abraham Lincoln to solve the mystery. However, after their ship is sunk by the mysterious creature, the three survivors discover that their "foe" is not animal but rather of machine - the infamous submarine the Nautilus - and Captain Nemo at the helm. As Nemo takes them in with distinct instructions that they will never leave the Nautilus, the trio are soon crossing through seas and oceans, making discoveries while visiting the watery graves of many a sunken ship. Aronnax, our narrator, provides us with clear accounts of braving through icebergs and getting trapped in one, seeing the lost continent of Atlantis, fighting off sharks, burying the dead in a coral cemetery, and battling giant squid who have a taste for man flesh (that scene was AMAZING, by the way)

While the adventures and discoveries seem to never end, the trio do remind themselves that they are prisoners in the Nautilus - they can never leave. Nemo, a bitter man against the world, sees fits to never set foot on true land again or interact with other people of the world. He finds freedom in the water and makes it his home - a place with no rules. Yet, and I found myself thinking about this at great length - is Nemo a self imposed prisoner as well? Did he confuse freedom with prison? I've read several books that talk of people who, after getting fed up with the world, decide to strike out on their own and find some secluded spot to create a new life - books such as Into the Wild and Walden come to mind. Yet, as with Nemo, I have to wonder if we are truly capable of cutting ourselves off from other people, to live in seclusion and away from the rules of the world.  Aronnax, on several occasions, thinks his host to be mad in emotion and feeling. Is Nemo mad, or perhaps something else entirely?

I saw the Disney movie several years ago and loved it, yet the book is much darker and more in depth as to Nemo's psyche, two things that I absolutely love. This story will stay with me for quite some time - if not for the darkness within Nemo, then definitely for the detailed descriptions of ocean life as provided by Aronnax. I felt as though I was right there with them, watching the ocean reveal its beauty as far as the eye could see.


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