Journey to the Center of the Earth Analysis

  • In Journey to the Center of the Earth, published in 1864, author Jules Verne presents an adventure novel that contributed to the burgeoning field of science fiction and is considered a classic of the subterranean fiction genre.
  • The novel is partially based on the premise of the Hollow Earth theory. Accordingly, its characters find themselves in another world beneath Earth’s crust.
  • Verne plots his novel tightly and maintains a sense of adventure even at a time in which most of Earth’s surface had been mapped.

Analysis

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on August 16, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 378

Journey to the Center of the Earth is an 1864 science fiction and adventure novel written by French novelist Jules Verne. It tells the story of German professor Otto Lidenbrock; together with his nephew, Axel, and their guide, Hans, he adventures to the center of the Earth. Verne based his...

(The entire section contains 772 words.)

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this Journey to the Center of the Earth study guide. You'll get access to all of the Journey to the Center of the Earth content, as well as access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

  • Summary
  • Chapter Summaries
  • Themes
  • Characters
  • Analysis
  • Critical Essays
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Journey to the Center of the Earth is an 1864 science fiction and adventure novel written by French novelist Jules Verne. It tells the story of German professor Otto Lidenbrock; together with his nephew, Axel, and their guide, Hans, he adventures to the center of the Earth. Verne based his novel on the popular Hollow Earth theory, whose adherents claim that the Earth is entirely hollow and contains a whole other world inside its core. The novel has inspired many other works in literature, and there have been many adaptations of Journey to the Center of the Earth for film, radio, theater, television, video games, and even various adventure parks.

The protagonists of the novel are Professor Lidenbrock, an accomplished and incredibly impatient mineralogist and his quiet, unadventurous nephew named Axel—the narrator of the story. They discover an old manuscript written in an old runic text that contains an encrypted message. After decoding the message, they discover that it shows a path leading to the center of the Earth via a crater in the Snæfellsjökull volcano in Reykjavík, Iceland. Otto and Axel immediately go to Iceland and manage to find the secret entrance with the help of their guide, Hans Bjelke. Their adventure eventually leads them to a subterranean world filled with fantastical flora and fauna.

Written in his usual style, Verne's tightly-structured story possesses both an abundance of scientific information and multidimensional characters. Though the story is filled with exciting twists and turns, Verne also expertly conveys the beauty and purity of the secret world discovered by the travelers. Written at a time when almost all of the earth had been explored, Journey to the Center of the Earth manages to recapture the senses of wonder and possibility from earlier periods of major exploration and discovery. The world Verne creates is never magical, however; the professor always explains how the amazing things they discover are possible from a scientific perspective. In the years since its publication, Journey to the Center of the Earth has been praised for its action-packed and entertaining narrative, as well as its picturesque landscapes. It is now considered one of the most popular novels in subterranean fiction, which is concerned with the world underground and the center of the Earth.

The Plot

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 340

The three major characters in Jules Verne’s A Journey to the Centre of the Earth are a German mineralogist and geologist named Otto Lidenbrock, his nephew Axel, and their Icelandic guide, Hans. This novel is a first-person narrative told from Axel’s point of view.

Otto Lidenbrock is a stereotypical scientist, obsessed with his research projects. He has little understanding of or patience with those who do not share his enthusiasm for scientific discoveries. His nephew Axel has a solid classical education, but his main interest in life is his love for Graüben, Lidenbrock’s goddaughter.

Lidenbrock’s hobby is collecting old books and manuscripts. One day, he discovers a mysterious message written in Old Icelandic by a sixteenth century scientist named Arne Saknussemm. Axel decodes this message for his uncle. They learn that Saknussemm claimed to have traveled from an Icelandic volcano toward the hollow center of the earth. Lidenbrock and Axel soon realize that no one before them had decoded Saknussemm’s message. They decide to travel to Iceland and attempt to replicate Saknussemm’s journey to the center of the earth.

After an arduous boat ride to Iceland, they hire a temperamental guide named Hans. The three of them go into the Mount Sneffels volcano in Iceland and discover an extraordinary world hidden beneath the crust of the earth. To their amazement, they observe massive mushrooms, plants, and fossils, along with an extensive series of lakes and rivers. Several times, as they explore passages that lead nowhere, they almost run out of water, but each time they eventually find a path that appears to take them closer to the center of the earth.

Near the end of the novel, Lidenbrock, Axel, and Hans realize that they have begun to travel back toward the surface. When they exit from a volcano, they find themselves not in Iceland but rather on the volcanic island of Stromboli, near Sicily. After Lidenbrock and Axel return to Hamburg, Germany, the geologist resumes his scientific research and Axel marries Graüben.

Bibliography

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 54

Amis, Kingsley. “Starting Points,” in New Maps of Hell: A Survey of Science Fiction, 1960.

Jules-Verne, Jean. Jules Verne: A Biography, 1976.

Miller, Walter James. “A New Look at Jules Verne” and “Jules Verne, Rehabilitated,” in The Annotated Jules Verne: “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,” 1976.

Rose, Mark. “Space,” in Alien Encounters: Anatomy of Science Fiction, 1981.

Illustration of PDF document

Download Journey to the Center of the Earth Study Guide

Subscribe Now
Previous

Characters

Next

Critical Essays