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Although Verne’s career as a writer had begun in 1850, his works enjoyed little popular success before the publication of A Journey to the Centre of the Earth in November, 1864. The novel sold so well that his Parisian publisher, Jules Hetzel, offered Verne a 50 percent increase in payments for all future novels. Hetzel had no qualms about paying three thousand French francs per novel because he believed that Verne’s future novels also would sell well. This significant increase in his earnings enabled Verne to resign his job as a stockbroker. He spent the remaining years of his life as a full-time writer of science-fiction novels. His work remained popular both in France and around the world.

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Verne’s publisher at first thought that A Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Verne’s many other science-fiction novels describing fantastic voyages would appeal almost exclusively to young children. Adult readers, however, also discovered much of interest in Verne’s writings, and sales of Verne’s books were higher than expected.

A superficial reading of A Journey to the Centre of the Earth or other, equally popular novels by Verne such as From the Earth to the Moon (1865) and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870) might make them appear to be little more than highly fanciful but almost unbelievable descriptions of trips to distant places in outer space, under the water, or under Earth’s crust. The novels, however, also reveal profound psychological insights into the effects of these mysterious voyages on their characters. A Journey to the Centre of the Earth is not an objective third-person narrative that describes an unsuccessful effort to find the center of the earth but rather a first-person narrative. This form helps Verne to show how a terrifying trip transformed the narrator, Axel, from an immature young man into a thoughtful and psychologically stable adult.

Axel’s entrance into the Mount Sneffels volcano constitutes the beginning of his voyage of self-discovery. He is forced to face his...

(The entire section contains 515 words.)

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Critical Context