The Brash American As Seen By Verne
Verne calls the ship that tries to catch the creature, the Abraham Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln, the president of the United States from 1861-1865, presided over the American Civil War and is credited with preserving the Union. He was assassinated in April, 1865–one year before the book begins. The captain of the Abraham Lincoln, Farragut, is named for a Union admiral, David Farragut. Farrugut was credited with saying “Damn the torpedoes–full speed ahead!!!” This statement may be construed as brave or insane, and Farragut can be seen in the same light. The actions of the Abraham Lincoln, which appear rash and arrogant may be yet another classification of the United States (similar to Ned Land, the gruff “American”). In the 19th century the United States was an emerging nation, that was quickly gaining in economic and military might; yet, it was not always a match for its European neighbors across the Atlantic. Many Europeans scoffed at the young nation and its belief in manifest destiny of the 1840s (the belief that God wanted the United States to reach from the Atlantic to the Pacific).
This section strongly develops the air of mystery that pervades the novel. The men are placed in a dark cell, no one seems to speak their language, and they have no idea what is happening. While the men inhabit the Nautilus they are slowly stripped of their national identity. They live among a foreign language that they do not understand, in a vessel that inhabits no nation, and they are subject to a new set of laws–Nemo’s laws.
Another important aspect of this section is Ned Land’s reference to cannibalism. This is a reoccurring fear he will have. Literally, he is afraid his fellow man will eat him alive. The symbolism of Land’s name should not be forgotten. Unlike Aronnax, he can only survive on the tangible–he is not please to sit and consider theoretical ideas or philosophy. He is, in every sense, a creature of the land. The land is what Nemo has tried to escape, because he has a deep hatred for his fellow man. Perhaps Land and Nemo are correct to fear their fellow man will eat them alive, both literally and figuratively.
This section also develops the characters of the men. Ned Land continues to be easily angered and demanding (the gruff American); Aronnax continues to be refined and concerned with protocol (note the French word for arrogance is the same as the English-strikingly similar to Aronnax); Conseil continues to serve (note the French word for counsel is conseil– although Conseil is said to never counsel, he almost always does, with permission of course).
Chapter Challenge: 11-15