The enigmatic Captain Nemo of the Nautilus is perhaps the most fascinating character of Jules Verne’s novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Little is known about his origins, however. In 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Nemo reveals that he had a wife and children, all of whom have perished.
He also displays an almost maniacal resentment toward imperialism in general, and the British Empire in particular. In fact, his vendetta against this world power appears to have driven the development of the Nautilus. Finally, in The Mysterious Island, also by Jules Verne, Captain Nemo reveals that his real name is Prince Dakkar. The son of an Indian Raja, he became Nemo after fighting in the Indian Rebellion of 1857.
From these pieces a pattern emerges—a man who has fought for a cause and lost everything. Now he nurtures a deep hatred of the British Empire, indeed the entire world above with all its governments. He has constructed a technological marvel and accomplished things no other man has done. Ultimately, his entire life has been consumed by his quest for…what? For freedom? For retribution? The question ultimately posed by this man’s life is one that applies as much to us today as when Jules Verne first penned his books:
When does revolution become revenge?
Don’t forget to check out The Nautilus Project, a scientific and historical study of Captain Nemo’s famous submarine, the Nautilus.