Study Guide

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Part 1 Chapter 8

By Jules Verne

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Part 1 Chapter 8

Mobilis in Mobile

  • Uh oh. Our trio of heroes are pulled into the hatch, dragged down a ladder, and thrown into a pitch black cell. Aronnax can't make heads or tails of where they are.
  • Ned starts flipping out and calling their captors cannibals. (Why? We're not sure.) He pulls out his big ol' Bowie knife and says he's ready to use it.
  • Aronnax tells Ned to calm down. Groping in the dark, Aronnax figures out that the cell has bare steel walls with no windows or doors, that there's a table in the room, and that there's a woven mat on the floor. It's not a big cell, but it's not cramped, either.
  • Half an hour passes. Then, a bright light fills the room, blinding Aronnax and his companion. A lamp has been turned on.
  • Ned pulls out his knife and gets ready to fight.
  • Soon enough a door slides open and two men come in, one short and powerful looking, the other confident and noble. The second dude is tall with dark, piercing eyes and pale skin. Aronnax is impressed by this second man, which is why his description gets more adjectives.
  • Aronnax notes that both men are wearing suits made of sealskin and another odd cloth that he can't identify.
  • They talk to each other in a strange language no one can understand. They make no attempt to talk to our trio; instead, they look at them curiously.
  • Aronnax tries to speak French with the "noble" looking man—who he assumes is some kind of captain—but the man doesn't respond.
  • Ned tries to speak English, but the man doesn't seem to understand that.
  • Conseil tries German. Nope. Still nothing.
  • The two men say something in their weird lingo and leave. Aronnax is baffled. Ned totally loses it. He thinks they're just a bunch of jerks. Aronnax thinks Ned needs to calm down. Again. Apparently this dynamic happens a lot between these two.
  • Aronnax decides that they must either be "Spaniards, Turks, Arabs, or Indians" (1.8.49), but that's all he can say for sure. Which isn't much, if you ask us.
  • Now another man enters. He's some kind of servant, and he's carrying clothes for the three them. (In case you forgot, Aronnax and Conseil have been butt-naked this whole time, having cut off their clothes while swimming. Verne tries not to mention that too much.)
  • The servant sets the table, leaving three plates with silver covering over them. This puts our heroes in a better mood.
  • Their meal consists of a bunch of fish, and some other stuff that none of them can identify. Still, it's pretty good.
  • The whole meal is served with nice utensils. Each utensil is inscribed with the same motto: "MOBILIS IN MOBILE / N."
  • Aronnax translates "Mobilis in Mobile" as "Mobile in the mobile element," the "mobile element" here being water. It's a pretty good description of the way this submarine vessel.
  • Aronnax decides that the "N" is the initial of whomever is running the submarine.
  • When they're finished eating, Ned and Conseil are way sleepy and pass out almost instantly. They've just had a pretty tough time, getting stranded at sea and almost drowning, so we're going to let them off the hook for this.
  • Aronnax spends a little more time worrying about their fate, but he, too, passes out pretty quickly.

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