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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Journey to the Center of the Earth Characters

The main characters in Journey to the Center of the Earth are Axel Lidenbrock, Professor Otto Lidenbrock, and Hans Bjelke.

  • Axel Lidenbrock is the book’s narrator and Professor Lidenbrock’s nephew. He is nervous about whether the group’s expedition is worth putting their lives in danger.
  • Professor Otto Lidenbrock plans the journey and is confident that the explorers will emerge with new knowledge. He often disregards Axel’s concerns.
  • Hans Bjelke is a hunter from Iceland who works as the group’s guide.

Characters

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Last Updated on August 25, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 525

Axel Lidenbrock

Axel Lidenbrock is the book’s narrator and the nephew of Professor Otto Lidenbrock. He is an interesting choice of narrator, as he is initially firmly against his uncle's decision to journey to the center of the earth and joins him with reluctance. By nature, Axel is a pessimist, and he generally prefers the comforts of home over the adventure of scientific fieldwork. Though he is convinced that the trip will end in failure and tries to persuade his uncle not to go, he ultimately decides to accompany the professor on his dangerous mission. This choice demonstrates Axel’s depth and roundness of character; he is committed to helping his family, even if he may disapprove of their decisions. Though he is less confident and assertive than his uncle, Axel demonstrates dynamic knowledge and problem-solving in his ability to interpret the runic code and communicate with the others despite being briefly separated from them during their journey.

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Professor Otto Lidenbrock

An almost polar opposite to Axel, Professor Otto Lidenbrock, a single-minded and adventurous geologist, functions as a foil to the novel's young narrator. In contrast to his nephew’s pessimistic outlook, Lidenbrock believes—perhaps naively—that he can simply will himself to success. Though he’s a generally optimistic person, his single-minded focus makes him quite stubborn. His occasionally misplaced confidence that the mission will succeed leads him to continually push the group onward, even when doing so puts them at clear risk. Lidenbrock’s dedication puts the men in danger of starvation and dehydration, becoming lost in the unfathomable depths of the earth, and other perils, but it could be said that his dedication also enables them to escape these dangers. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that the professor—a distinguished scholar—holds himself in very high regard and is reluctant to accept theories without confirming them through direct observation with his own eyes. Indeed, his ambition, which may first appear arrogant and obsessive, stems directly from his keen scientific mind and desire to see and understand the world implicitly. 

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Latest answer posted June 21, 2019, 12:28 pm (UTC)

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Hans Bjelke

Hans is a hunter from Iceland, and he functions as the group’s guide on their perilous journey. He is physically strong (as a result of his occupation) and rather stoic. While Lidenbrock tends to be overly optimistic and Axel tends to be overly pessimistic, Hans does not often voice his opinions either way. He is a pragmatist in the sense that he cares about doing what is necessary to make a particular part of the journey work. Hans does not often speak; however, on the rare occasions when he does choose to offer his thoughts, his opinions are usually wise and well thought out. He is exceptionally resourceful, and without Hans’s practicality and quick thinking on several occasions, the men would have almost certainly not survived their perilous journey.

Minor Characters

Other characters who are briefly mentioned include Martha, Lidenbrock’s cook; Grauben, Lidenbrock’s ward, whom Axel loves and plans to marry immediately following the group’s return; and Mr. Fridriksson, a friend who hosts Lidenbrock and his nephew during their stay in Reykjavík.

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