Form and Content
A Journey to the Centre of the Earth is a first-person account of an extraordinary voyage. Axel, the narrator, is a youth sent to study science with his multitalented uncle, Otto Lidenbrock; he is present when the professor finds a manuscript hidden in an old copy of the Icelandic epic Heimskringla. The manuscript contains an encrypted message signed by the celebrated alchemist Arne Saknussemm, which purports to give directions for reaching the center of the earth. Having solved the cryptogram, the professor immediately resolves to follow the directions and the narrator goes with him to Iceland; their party is eventually completed by an Icelander hired as a guide.
The narrator describes in great detail the equipment assembled by the professor. Their discussions regarding the usefulness of various items provide a running commentary on all that was then known about the structure of the earth’s crust. Axel also describes the professor’s eccentric but methodical attempt to offer him some relevant training by making him climb a tall tower, in order that he might overcome his tendency to vertigo. The descent into the extinct volcano is described with equal scrupulousness, with a full report of the scientific observations made by the professor. At first, the temperature increases the further down they go (as contemporary theory had predicted), but, as the story moves into purely hypothetical realms, it reverts to a more comfortable level....
(The entire section is 462 words.)