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20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

by Jules Verne

Technology and Modernization Theme

Everybody loves a good super-genius, especially one who can construct a super-powerful submarine. Nemo's mastery of science and engineering—as demonstrated by his diving suits and electricity guns, in addition to his sub—is awesome. But it's also alienating. In 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Nemo's achievements set him apart from humanity in more ways than one. They mark him as a genius, but they also make him an outcast. His inventions are a century ahead of time and so is he; he doesn't belong in the world into which he was born. Wamp wamp.

Questions About Technology and Modernization

  1. Why do people find it easier to believe in a giant narwhal than in a sophisticated submersible vessel?
  2. Why can't Nemo share the secrets of the Nautilus with the wider world? Couldn't he put them to better use in the service of "oppressed peoples"?
  3. Why is the Nautilus so often spoken of as if it's a living being?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Though the Nautilus provides ample evidence of Nemo's genius, it also speaks to his selfishness. His vessel is little more than a cocoon, a comfortable place to rest; odds are, he could be putting his gifts to much better use.

Verne shows us that man is rarely willing to recognize genius in its time. Whatever his particular history may be, Nemo is framed as a victim of ignorance and the fear of innovation.

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