Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea was published in 1870 by famed science adventure writer Jules Verne. It has since become one of his most popular novels. It follows three characters, Professor Pierre Aronnax, his servant Conseil, and the harpooner, Ned Land, as they attempt to escape from the clutches of the commander of the Nautilus, Captain Nemo.
‘Spoiler-Free’ Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea Summary
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea begins with several terrifying accounts of an enormous sea creature attacking ships worldwide. The USS Abraham Lincoln is dispatched to hunt down this creature and destroy it. The main characters are the narrator, Professor Pierre Aronnax, his servant Conseil, and the harpooner, Ned Land. The three men get far more than they signed up for when the sea creature is revealed to be a force far more deadly and concerning. Throughout the novel, readers are exposed to Jules Verne’s groundbreaking science adventure writing and a thrilling depiction of underwater adventure.
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea Summary
Spoiler alert: important details of the novel are revealed below.
Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea begins with the description of a mysterious creature attacking ships around the world. The narrator, Professor Pierre Aronnax, a famed marine biologist, describes the details of the incidents, such as the assumption that the marine animal has a sharp implement on its head and his belief that they are dealing with a giant narwhal. The Professor is invited on a special mission aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln to hunt the sea creature down.
The ship is commanded by Captain Farragut, a passionate man who believes it is his life’s mission to go into battle with this unknown entity and either die at its hand or slay it. He declares that the first man to see the creature from the ship a great deal of money. This inspires the ship’s crew to stand guard around the clock, hoping to spot the narwhal.
Also onboard the ship is French-Canadian harpooner Ned Land, famed for his whale-hunting abilities. Additionally, the Professor is accompanied by his servant Conseil who will, at a moment’s notice, do whatever the Aronnax needs him to.
Soon, the mysterious creature, capable of mysterious illumination, is spotted. The monster rams the ship throwing the three main characters overboard. Soon, in desperation, they find themselves on top of a metal vessel that is revealed to be the “creature” they were hunting. Men appear and take them inside the enormous submarine named the Nautilis. The ship’s commander, Captain Nemo, speaks to the three captured men, informing them that they will have to remain on board his vessel for the rest of their days. They are unsurprisingly outraged by this assertion, especially Ned Land, who is willing to do anything he can to escape their captivity.
As the Professor learns more about Captain Nemo and the incredible vessel they are now residents of, he becomes less willing to fight for their freedom. In these pages, readers are introduced to the various attributes of the Nautilis. This includes Nemo’s incredible paintings, artifacts, research Nemo has acquired, and more. The Professor maintains an idealized image of the Captain and seems more than willing to spend, at least for the foreseeable future, within the Nautilis.
Nemo demonstrates questionable character traits in these pages, such as an undefined rage at a group of people who have wronged him for an unknown reason. Despite this, the Professor is only willing to see his experience, knowledge, and the opportunity for research he presents. Throughout the following chapters, the ship explores underwater ruins, which are revealed to be the lost city of Atlantis, goes into battle against a giant squid, and Nemo, Aronnax, and Conseil walk on the seafloor to an underwater forest.
Later in the novel, Captain Nemo’s submarine is attacked by a warship of unknown origin. The Captain asserts that the men on board the ship, or at least their countrymen, are responsible for Nemo’s personal suffering. Nemo fights back and sinks the ship in revenge. At this point, Nemo seems to lose control of the darker elements of his personality.
Nemo navigates the submarine into a whirlpool intent on destroying himself, all that he created, and the men on board his ship. He suddenly understands that his cruelty reflects what he has suffered and that he is no better than those he has been trying to destroy. During this climactic scene, the three main characters, Professor Aronnax, Conseil, and Ned Land, managed to sneak onboard a separate boat and escape from the submarine.
The novel concludes with the narrator noting that he is still without answers to many of his most important questions. But, he hopes that Nemo survived and that he’ll leave behind his life of vengeance for a more hopeful future.
What happens at the end of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea?
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea concludes with the three main characters escaping from the Nautilus and being left with many questions regarding the submarine’s origin and Captain Nemo’s backstory. At the end of the novel, it is unclear whether or not Nemo himself survives the whirlpool.
Why is Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea famous?
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is famous as one of Jules Verne’s best-known and widely read novels. It depicts underwater adventure in a way that had never been attempted before. Within the book, Verne also crafted one of the most famous literary characters of all time— Captain Nemo.
Where did the story of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea happen?
The novel takes place in oceans around the world. It begins in France, where the narrator is from, and expands from there. Throughout the novel, the characters visit islands, kelp forests, the lost city of Atlantis, and more.
What happened to Captain Nemo in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea?
Captain Nemo’s fate is unclear at the end of the novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. But, in a later book, The Mysterious Island, it’s revealed that he was the only surviving member of the Nautilus crew. Readers also find out why Nemo was so set on revenge in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.