20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Freedom and Confinement Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
I caught a glimpse of a frightening past in this man's life. Not only had he placed himself outside humanity's laws, but he had made himself independent, free in the strictest sense of the word, out of all reach! Who would dare pursue him to the bottom of the seas, given that he could foil any efforts made against him on the surface? (1.10.21)
Aronnax says that Nemo has made himself "free in the strictest sense of the world," but at what cost? How free are you if you can't interact with regular ol', land-dwellin' mankind?
The sea is nature's vast reserve. It was through the sea that the globe as it were began, and who knows if it will not end in the sea! Perfect peace abides here. The sea does not belong to despots. On its surface immoral rights can still be claimed, men can fight each other, devour each other, and carry out all earth's atrocities. But thirty feet below the surface their power ceases, their influence fades, their authority disappears. Ah, sir, live, live in the heart of the sea! Independence is possible only here! Here I recognize no master! Here I am free! (1.10.79)
Nemo defines independence as freedom from tyranny. From men fighting each other. But what if there were a dispute on board the Nautilus? What would Nemo do? Is his captaining style much different from most monarchical rulers' ruling styles, especially regarding imprisonment-without-warning-or-trial?
"Although the Argonaut is free to leave its shell," I said to Conseil, "it never does."
"Just like Captain Nemo," he judiciously replied. "Which is why he should have called his ship the Argonaut." (2.1.32-3)
Conseil's wry comment, in which he compares Nemo to a sea creature that never leaves its shell, suggests that maybe Nemo's freedom isn't complete. Nemo puts limits on his own freedom. His exile is self-imposed.