A Journey to the Centre of the Earth Essay - Critical Context

Jules Verne

Critical Context

The influence of A Journey to the Centre of the Earth is by no means restricted to later novels about interior worlds within the earth, although many were written. It provided a prototype for all novels of planned exploration, in which adventurers make the best calculations they can as to what they might encounter and make the best provision they can for meeting those challenges. It paved the way for Verne’s own De la terre à la lune (1865; From the Earth to the Moon, 1873) and Vingt milles lieues sous les mers (1869-1870; Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, 1873) and hence for all their successors. The combination of imaginative ambition and semiscrupulous restraint displayed by A Journey to the Centre of the Earth won Verne later recognition as the first important writer of science fiction and in doing so helped to define the nature and ambitions of that genre.

In maintaining its exploratory fervor, twentieth century science fiction had perforce to rush further and further onward where Verne had feared to tread, with the result that Verne’s efforts now seem a little tame. It must be remembered, however, that in 1863 A Journey to the Centre of the Earth did go where no one had been before, and it went boldly. When no such expedition had ever been dreamed of, it really was the case that planning the trip was half the fun and that it was as exciting to travel hopefully as it was to arrive. In that context, the tale’s constant insistence on matters of detail is not merely excusable but vital. If this is borne in mind, the story remains eminently readable today, and there is still much to be learned from it.