Study Guide

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Part 2 Chapter 21

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Part 2 Chapter 21

A Massacre

  • Aronnax feels like he finally understands the captain. Sure, the ship has some patriotic significance to Aronnax, a Frenchmen, but it tells him more about Nemo than anything else. He takes the name Vengeur to heart. He realizes that Nemo and his crew are seeking some kind of revenge for past war-time atrocities.
  • Soon, the Nautilus is back on the surface, and an explosion is heard in the distance.
  • Ned's right on it: it's a cannon, he says.
  • Aronnax looks back in the direction of that mystery ship he saw earlier, and sure enough, there it is, coming at the Nautilus at full speed.
  • Ned, he of the eagle eyes, can tell it's a warship. But he can't tell where it comes from; again, there are no flags in sight.
  • For fifteen minutes, the Nautilus idles while the ship steams closer. Now, Ned can tell it's a big warship, iron-plated. In other words, it means business. Still no flag in sight.
  • Ned's ready to throw himself overboard and swim to the ship. Aronnax must admit that Ned's plan would probably work.
  • Just then, the warship begins firing on the Nautilus. Ned approves.
  • Aronnax is confused. They have to realize that they're firing at people, not at some kind of giant narwhal. Then he comprehends that they don't care either way; they've probably figured out that the beast is a ship, and that they want to take it down anyway. In short, Aronnax realizes they're done for.
  • But wait: Nemo's probably going to use the Nautilus for revenge, since he's been doing this kind of thing all along. Aronnax understand that he probably sunk a ship that time he had them all thrown in the cell and drugged. So, yeah, Aronnax is a little slow on the uptake, but he finally gets it. Good for you, buddy.
  • All the while, the Nautilus is getting shelled. But, as usual, the "bad guys" have terrible aim. They can't manage to hit the Nautilus.
  • For some reason, Aronnax, Ned, and Conseil think it a good day to stand on deck and watch.
  • Ned decides to try signaling the ship. He waves his handkerchief around. Out of nowhere, he's knocked to the ground.
  • Nemo is on deck, now, and he's mad as mad can be. He threatens to nail Ned's "miserable carcass" (2.21.39) to the front of the Nautilus and then ram it into the ship. Strong words, no?
  • This scares the bejeezus out of Aronnax.
  • Nemo starts yelling at the other ship. He knows where it's from, he says; he doesn't need to see a flag. With that, he unfurls his own flag.
  • Just then, a shell bounces off the Nautilus. Nemo orders Aronnax and company to go down below.
  • Aronnax asks Nemo if he's going to attack the ship.
  • "I'm going to sink it!" Nemo says (2.21.48). No way, says Aronnax. Way, says Nemo, and you'd better not judge me for it. Now go away.
  • Where's the ship from, Aronnax wants to know. None of your business, says Nemo. "Go down" (2.21.52). Finally, Aronnax stops acting like an idiot and obeys Nemo.
  • He can hear Nemo yelling crazily at the ship as he, Ned, and Conseil head down below.
  • Aronnax returns to his room. He can feel the Nautilus's engines fire up and start to move the sub.
  • For a while, Nemo just lets the other ship chase him.
  • Aronnax decides to talk to Nemo one last time.
  • All he gets out of Nemo is one heck of a response. Nemo says:
  • I am the law, I am the justice […] I am the oppressed, and they are the oppressor! It is because of them that everything I loved, cherished, venerated—country, wife, children, parents—perished as I watched! Everything I hate is there! Keep quiet! (2.21.59)
  • There's not much you can say to that, really. So for once, Aronnax actually keeps quiet.
  • He runs back to Ned and Conseil. Time to escape, he says. This dude's crazy.
  • Ned asks where the ship's from.
  • Aronnax doesn't know, but he'd rather be on board when it's sunk by Nemo than take part in Nemo's revenge. Ned agrees.
  • That night, they get ready to escape. They decide to wait until the ship is as close as possible. They'll try to convince the people on the ship to hightail it out of there once they get aboard.
  • They stay up, waiting. At 3:00AM, Aronnax decides to go up on deck and see what's going on.
  • In the moonlight, he can see the ship two miles in the distance. He stays there until 6:00AM. When the sun comes up, the ship starts firing. Aronnax knows the Nautilus could be attacking any time now.
  • He watches Nemo prepare the ship for the attack. Cockpit and light are pulled down into the Nautilus, so that the sub really does look like a big cigar now.
  • At 5:00PM the Nautilus stops moving and the other ship approaches.
  • Aronnax, Ned, and Conseil shake hands and get ready for the attack. Soon, they hear the hatch close. Standing in the library, they can hear the water tanks fill up.
  • Aronnax realizes what's up: the Nautilus is going to dive under the water and strike the ship underneath its metal plates.
  • The Nautilus gets up to ramming speed and cuts through the other ship like a hot knife through butter. There's barely a shockwave.
  • Captain Nemo is there with them, watching out the window as the ship sinks.
  • Aronnax can see sailors struggling to get away from the wreck and up to the water's surface. He can only look on in horror as an explosion rocks the ship, sending it to the bottom of the sea even more quickly than before.
  • Aronnax turns to Captain Nemo, who's watching silently. Once the ship has fallen to the bottom, the captain simply heads back to his room. Aronnax watches as he heads back. Through the open door, he can see Nemo staring at a portrait of a woman with two children. He watches as Nemo starts crying.

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