Journey to the Center of the Earth Themes

The main themes in Journey to the Center of the Earth are perseverance toward a larger goal, doubt versus faith, and the power of nature.

  • Perseverance toward a larger goal: Lidenbrock, Axel, and Hans undertake an extremely difficult journey, and despite its dangers, they are motivated by the prospect of scientific discovery.
  • Doubt versus faith: While Axel worries that the expedition is too risky, Lidenbrock is confident that it will be a success.
  • The power of nature: Lidenbrock disregards the power of nature, but nature ultimately proves its dominance when the group is expelled from the earth’s center.


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Perseverance Toward a Larger Goal

Hans and the Lidenbrocks are beset with difficulties and life-threatening dangers throughout the book. Their journey leads them through many hostile environments, and they are frequently forced to choose between personal safety and scientific discovery. Axel repeatedly suggests turning back—and did not, in fact, want to go at all—though he notably never abandons the group for fear of danger. Despite Axel’s protests, the professor disregards the dangerous nature of their mission and pushes the group forward. Fortunately, Hans’s ingenuity and level head help the group survive the journey. Their collective bravery and perseverance is rewarded, and they are able to witness geological features, fossils, and even living plants and animals—including a giant humanoid—entirely unknown to the rest of the world. In the end, the professor’s understanding of the world is enriched, and he has fantastic stories to tell.

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Doubt Versus Faith

Axel and the professor have different outlooks on life, and their conflicting views on the value of their mission are a recurring source of conflict. Timid, doubtful, and pessimistic, Axel doesn't believe that the journey will be a success. The professor, however, exemplifies unceasing faith from the start; there is no doubt in his mind that he and Axel will be able to decipher the mysterious parchment, and he doesn't question the wisdom of embarking on such a dangerous journey, even on short notice. The professor largely dismisses the obstacles the group encounters—including dangerous gases, nearly running out of water, and being accidentally separated—and remains certain that they will be able to explore the wonders beneath the earth’s surface. By contrast, Axel continually suggests that they turn back, and though the group does manage to find...

(The entire section contains 509 words.)

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Chapter Summaries