collage of bones, insects, a volcano, a dinosaur, and a skull

Journey to the Center of the Earth

by Jules Verne

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What is the theme of Journey to the Center of the Earth?

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Journey to the Center of the Earth is about three explorers who undertake an expedition to the center of the earth through a dormant Icelandic volcano.

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In the famous adventure novel Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne, Professor Lidenbrock and his nephew Axel discover a message left by explorer Arne Saknussemm in the pages of an ancient Icelandic saga. It tells of a passageway to the center of the Earth through the crater of a volcano in Iceland. They follow this path along with a guide named Hans and eventually discover many awesome wonders such as a vast underground sea, prehistoric creatures, strange plants, and even human-like giants. They are finally ejected through the vent of a volcano onto Stromboli, an island in Italy.

In order to appreciate the numerous themes of Journey to the Center of the Earth, it is important to understand its historical context. The novel was published in 1864, and the events in it take place in 1863. At that time, much of the Earth was still being explored and discovered. Additionally, it was a time of scientific inquiry when many educated people had a thirst for new knowledge and new ideas. Charles Darwin's groundbreaking book On the Origin of Species had only been published a few years previously.

Some of the main themes in the novel include the value of exploration and the thrill of discovery. Professor Lidenbrock does not hesitate to embark on his quest once he has deciphered the message, and the new worlds that the explorers see for the first time offer them great delight.

Related to the themes of exploration and discovery are the themes of courage and perseverance. The hardy explorers continue to advance toward their goal despite the many dangers that they encounter. This brings us to another theme of survival. When the explorers are faced with one life-threatening difficulty after another, they must cope with these problems in order to survive. This is related to the theme of man versus nature—at least supposed nature as it is presented in the novel.

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As in most adventure stories, the theme is perseverance, continuing on the journey despite hardships, despite doubt, despite even reason. When there is every indication that the journey will be difficult, you keep on going, because the outcome is worth the struggle. If before you even begin, common sense tells you this will be fruitless, you keep on going.

Axel serves as the voice of “reason” in this story. He argues with Professor Lidenbrock that the message discovered in the old book cannot be true. But he is swayed by his uncle and reluctantly agrees. When he finally sees that his uncle’s faith in the message is justified, he becomes more enthusiastic. Despite danger and even being separated from the others, he does not give up.

Professor Lidenbrock is excited by the thought of discovery. He makes his plan and follows it, ever willing to adjust his strategy with new discoveries.

Hans is the picture of duty. He has no discoveries to make, only a job to do, and he does it well. He does not show emotion about what he sees. It is just what it is. He perseveres because that is what he is required to do. Otherwise, he has no vested interest in the journey.

In all three, their perseverance guides them along the way. As a result, they gain knowledge and especially wisdom.

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What is Journey to the Center of the Earth about?

Journey to the Center of the Earth is a classic adventure story by Jules Verne. It follows three men—Professor Lidenbrock, Axel, and Hans—as they use a manuscript as their guide to travel to the center of the earth through a dormant volcano.

Their journey involves many dangers: flammable gas, prehistoric beasts, twelve-foot humanoid figures that may or may not be dangerous, and the possibility of starvation. However, there are beautiful moments on their quest as well, such as the electrified gas lighting up the underground caverns. Unfortunately for the trio of adventurers, they never make it to their intended destination, as a volcanic eruption spits them back out onto the surface in Italy. However, their efforts grant them acclaim from the other surface dwellers. At last, the adventurers return to their normal lives.

Overall, Journey to the Center of the Earth is a combination of science fiction (a genre of which Jules Verne was a major figure and pioneer) and adventure story. With its many dinosaurs, it prefigures both Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World and Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park. It is ultimately about the power of the natural world as represented by the subterranean prehistoric creatures and phenomena, which retain their majesty and danger even in the face of modernity.

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