Verniana — Jules Verne Studies / Etudes Jules Verne — Volume 2 (2009–2010) — 179–194

Finding Nemo: Verne’s Antihero as Original Steampunk

Mike Perschon


In the foreword to his annotated translation of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Walter James Miller suggests that Verne’s image was in need of rehabilitation due to the plethora of poor English translations his works have suffered. With the emergence of better translations, the same need for rehabilitation has emerged for Captain Nemo, the anti-hero of Verne’s underwater adventure tale. In the updated, post-colonial English translations of The Mysterious Island, Nemo is revealed to be the antithesis of the Caucasian pop-culture iteration made famous by James Mason and most recently continued by Patrick Stewart and Michael Caine: an Indian prince whose real name is Dakkar, a leader of the Sepoy rebellion against colonial rule in 1857. It is this Nemo, Verne’s original character, who embodies the essence of the Steampunk aesthetic of the instability of identity through his repeated death-and-rebirth cycle in both novels. Mixing one part recursive fantasy, one part historical criticism, and one part textual analysis, this paper will demonstrate how Captain Nemo is representative of one of the core elements of the Steampunk aesthetic, namely the redefining of identity.

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