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 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.


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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

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 complex 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.

Verne’s scientific adventure offers a moralizing lesson on the nature of man’s search for knowledge. The reluctant narrator and his overeager uncle act as extreme foils for each other to identify how the search for knowledge should be undertaken: with rationality and passion in equal measure. Their reverence for the natural ecosystem they discover at the center of the earth is tempered by Lidenbrock’s single-mindedness, a near-obsessive drive that leads him to make impulsive choices and damage the very world he seeks to explore. When the trio is summarily expelled from these hidden depths for this transgression, Verne’s didactic message becomes clear: scientific discovery and the search for knowledge are noble pursuits only so long as the effort does not bring harm to that which it seeks to understand.

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