Journey to the Center of the Earth

Journey to the Center of the Earth Study Guide

Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth is one of its author’s most beloved works. Engaging the themes of space and time, geology, travel, and discovery, it is a fantastic fusion of science and adventure. This book is part of the series of novels titled Voyages Extraordinaires, which also includes Verne's classics Around the World in Eighty Days (1873) and Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea (1870).

Not much is known about the origins of the book. An early manuscript exists but remains in private hands, and there are no proofs. Verne's writing took place most likely between January and August of 1864. Unlike Verne’s other works, Journey underwent a few revisions after its initial publication. In particular, significant portions of chapters 37-39 were added to the 1867 large-octavo edition to account for changes in the field of prehistory that occurred around 1865.

Among Verne's sources and influences for the Journey were Dante’s Inferno, Icelandic legends, Chateaubriand, Baudelaire, Virgil, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Edgar Allan Poe, Alexandre Dumas, and Georges Sand. Some scholars have pointed to disturbing textual similarities with Sands’ “Laura: Voyage dans le cristal” (Jan. 1864); Verne was also accused of plagiarism by a writer named Leon Delmas, who had written “La Tete de Mimers” under a pseudonym in September 1863 (though Verne won the suit). Beyond relying on these varied literary influences, Verne consulted many scientific texts for this novel as well.

Journey to the Center of the Earth was Verne’s first critical success and has been translated over ten times. (The 1871 translation has been largely excoriated by critics for changing the names of characters and making Lidenbrock and Axel Scottish.) Verne saw the work as serving a didactic purpose—to inform readers about geology and mineralogy. His narrative also references the fields of paleontology, aeronautics, and astronomy. At the time of the novel’s publication, scientists had only explored about fifteen kilometers below the Earth’s surface.

There have been several adaptations of Verne's novel in film, theater, and television. A thrill ride based on book can even be found in the Mysterious Island section of Tokyo DisneySea. Video games, radio adaptations, and a comic that demonstrate the influence of the text have also been produced.