Journey to the Center of the Earth

The focus of this guide on Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth is to place students in the exciting roles of explorers, with the teacher acting as supporter and guide.
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Teaching Strategies:
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Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth

Select one or more of the following for students to do throughout their reading of the novel.

1. Keep a dialog journal. Divide each page in half vertically. In one column write what is happening; in the other column write your reactions. Which lines from the novel, ideas, or actions resonate with you or repulse you?

2. Keep a character journal. Choose one of the three major characters. After every few chapters, write how you imagine the character would react to the events in the chapter.

3. Make a map of the journey so that when you complete the novel you can see its entirety. At various points during your reading, compare your map with another student's and discuss similarities and differences.

4. Keep a log of words with which you are unfamiliar, jotting them down along with the page number on which each appears.

5. Keep a log of Harry's emotional ups and downs so you can see in what ways he has grown by the end of the journey.

6. Chart the Professor's emotions and behavior throughout the trip. What patterns do you find?

7. Write down all the new ideas and information you encounter as you read the novel.

Suggested Response Activities

These questions and activities are designed to involve readers more deeply in the story. The questions should be used sparingly so as not to overwhelm the students.

Chapter 1: My Uncle Makes a Great Discovery

1. List all the things you learn about the Professor in this chapter.

2. How would you fit into this kind of household? What would be most difficult for you?

3. On page 10 the nephew says in reference to his uncle: "To my notion the best part of his possessions was his goddaughter, Gretchen." What would you say to the uncle or to your own parents if they considered you their possession?

Chapter 2: The Mysterious Parchment

1. What kind of code would you use to protect a secret?

2. Uncle Hardwigg explains that Arne Saknussemm knew many languages. Why do you suppose scholars in earlier centuries could understand so many languages?

3. What are your impressions of Uncle Hardwigg? Of Harry?

Chapter 3: The Astounding Discovery

1. Discuss Harry's seeming compliance to his uncle's wishes. Why do you think he behaves as he does?

2. "All his (Hardwigg's) energies were focused on one point" (21). What in your own life are you willing to focus so much energy on?

3. "His imagination is a perfect volcano and to make discoveries in the interests of geology he would sacrifice his life" (21). Are there things you believe in so strongly that you would give up your life?

4. What sense can you make of the translated message?

5. Could the information in the message make you curious enough to want to undertake such a trip?

Chapter 4: We Start the Journey

1. How would you react if given the opportunity to go on a trip like this? Write a letter to the Professor either accepting or declining his invitation to join him.

2. How do you view Hardwigg's insistence that the journey must be made?

3. When Harry tells Gretchen of the trip he is surprised when she says, "If I were only a man! I should look upon it as an honor to accompany him." (29). Why do you think that women were viewed as being incapable of such trips?

4. Hardwigg assembles ropes, rope ladders, torches, gourds, iron clamps, crowbars, alpenstocks and pickaxes for the trip. How do you imagine each item might be useful for this trip? What does it seem Hardwigg is expecting to encounter?

Chapter 5: First Lessons in Climbing

1. What are your views on conquering your fears through the method Hardwigg uses?

2. How would you have reacted to Hardwigg's orders were you Harry?

3. Write the thoughts of Harry as he is ascending to the steeple for the first time, or write the thoughts of his uncle as he is forcing Harry to climb the steeple.

Chapter 6: Our Voyage to Iceland

1. "But in the cause of science men are expected to suffer" (35). What examples from modern-day science bear this statement out? Do you believe people should make sacrifices so others can benefit from what they learn?

2. When Hardwigg gets seasick, Harry feels no pity for him. How would Harry explain his feelings on this matter?

3. What is Harry's greatest concern about the proposed journey?

4. When Harry explores the town, he realizes that unmarried women wear a brown knitted cap while married women cover their heads with a scarf. What do you make of this custom?

Chapter 7: Conversation and Discovery

1. Why do you think our society does not read as widely as the Icelanders did?

2. Arne was persecuted for his ideas. What ideas might have been considered dangerous?

3. What do you make of the Professor's ability to turn things the way he wants to turn them?

Chapter 8: The Eider-Down Hunter - Off at Last

1. What kind of skills do you imagine it takes to be a successful eider-down hunter?

2. Since Hans and the Professor have such different personalities, how do you think they will get along on this journey?

3. Instruments, arms, tools, and medical equipment are gathered for the trip. Which of the supplies seems most useful to you? Which would you predict will get little use?

4. "I had every reason to believe that we had neither wild beasts nor savage natives to fear" (51). What can you learn about Harry's views and attitudes from his description of natives as "savage"?

Chapter 9: Our Start - We Meet with Adventures by the Way

1. The Professor allows Hans to ignore him. Why do you think he doesn't get impatient or angry at Hans?

2. People's natures are revealed when they travel together. What do we find out about the Professor and about Harry?

3. The Professor says about Hans "that sort of people go ahead without knowing even what they are about" (56). Why do you think he makes such assumptions about people, and why does he seem to want to categorize people?

Chapter 10: Traveling in Iceland - the Lepers

1. Sometimes our words give away our upbringing. Harry says, "It was merely the house of a peasant." (60) What does this tell you about Harry, how he sees people, and how he was brought up?

2. List all the Icelandic customs you learn in this chapter. Do any seem strange to you?

3. The Professor seems to imply through his gestures and through his facial expressions that the volcano "is the giant I have made up my mind to conquer" (66) What else besides scientific information might the Professor want?

4. From what you know of the physical qualities of Iceland, is it a place you would want to visit?

Chapter 11: We Reach Mount Sneffels - the "Reykir"

1. Hans keeps calm when the Professor explains that the journey will continue until he explores the volcano to its limits. What can we learn about Hans from his reaction?

2. Harry is afraid to descend into the bowels of the earth. What things would you worry about if you were to go on such an adventure? Make a list.

3. Is the Professor's scientific reasoning that this volcano could not become active correct?

Chapter 12: The Ascent of Mount Sneffels

1. On pages 75 and 76 Harry gives a short history of the formation of the world. Check out his facts. Are they still believed to be correct or have new theories been advanced?

2. On the way up the mountain, Hans occasionally stops and piles up small heaps of rocks so they will not lose their way on the return. What is Hans assuming about the journey?

3. Harry says of Hans' rock piling efforts: "the precaution was a good one; though how utterly useless and unnecessary" (77). What do you believe Harry means?

4. Compare your most physically challenging adventure to the exhausting day described in this chapter. How do they compare?

Chapter 13: The Shadow of Scartaris

1. Harry describes the beautiful scenery and sensation of being on top of a mountain. What is the most beautiful natural sight you have ever seen? How did it affect you? Write a poem capturing these images.

2. If you, like the three adventurers, had to wait several days, how would you spend your time?

3. Describe how you would feel knowing that you were to descend into the heart of the earth. What do you think they will find? What will it look like?

Chapter 14: The Real Journey Commences

1. Explain the system of ropes the Professor devises. How would you feel if you were descending on such equipment?

2. Harry's subtle humor once again becomes apparent in this chapter. Find the sentence on page 91 containing this humor. Would Harry ever imply such a thing to his uncle?

3. The Professor makes clear that he does not believe in the theory of a central fire in the earth. Comment on his beliefs. Do contemporary geologists think they have the answer?

Chapter 15: We Continue Our Descent

1. Explain why the Professor believes the barometer will soon be worthless.

2. We know that descent into the ocean requires an equalization pressure on ascent. Why, according to the Professor, won't air pressure won't be a problem on their descent into the center of the earth?

3. What would your thoughts be if after many, many days of a difficult journey, someone told you that the trip was just now beginning?

4. Who do you believe is right about the temperature - Harry or the Professor?

Chapter 16: The Eastern Tunnel

1. Do you think the Professor should have spent more time and thought on which of the four paths to take? What factors might influence his decision?

2. Harry describes their sleeping place as "absolute solitude and complete security" (103). Do you think the price he has paid so far for this trip is worth these brief periods of happiness?

3. How has Harry benefited from the trip? What has he learned? List what he has learned and compare your list with your classmates' lists.

4. Notice how tactfully Harry tells his uncle he believes they are going uphill. What would he really like to say to him? Write the conversation he would like to have.

5. What do you think of the Professor's decision to press on even though there is no apparent source of water?

Chapter 17: Deeper and Deeper - the Coal Mine

1. Do you admire the attitude of the Professor and his willingness to continue the journey knowing how scarce water is? How would you react to him?

2. How do you envision the journey back to the the point where they selected the wrong path? What do you imagine the conflicts or obstacles will be?

3. Script the talk Harry would really like to have with his uncle.

Chapter 18: The Wrong Road!

1. "My uncle bore them [the sufferings] like a man." (114) "by no means accustomed to signs of womanly weakness in the Professor" (115). From what you know about men and women, refute or support Harry's perceptions.

2. Why do you think the Professor shows uncharacteristic concern for Harry? Do your feelings change towards him?

3. Remember a time in your life when you were very thirsty. How did this lack of water affect you?

4. Do you think Harry's poor physical condition due to lack of water and exhaustion is overstated in this chapter? Why or why not?

5. Considering the Professor's treatment of Harry and his desire to continue, what would you like to say to him?

Chapter 19: The Western Gallery - a New Route

1. Imagine yourself, as Harry does, in the middle of the earth with the whole weight of the earth's crust resting on your shoulders. Write a stream-of-consciousness paper from Harry's point of view. What are your thoughts? How are you feeling?

2. Why did Hans rise in the middle of the night and leave their sleeping place?

3. Although the Professor says, "All is over," (122) is he willing to give up the expedition? What is his motivation for completing this expedition?

Chapter 20: Water, Where Is It? A Bitter Disappointment

1. How would you feel watching Hans hack away at the wall to reach water, knowing that he could bring an avalanche of rock down on your head?

2. Hans says little but acts when he sees a need. Is it easy to understand a person like Hans? Have you ever known anyone like him?

3. Harry says the water is "ferruginous." Can you guess what element is found in this water? How does it affect the body?

4. What do you think of the custom of naming places after travelers who encounter the lanscape features for what they believe is the first time?

Chapter 21: Under the Ocean

1. Harry compares his uncle's temperament to a raging river and Hans's temperament to a peacefully flowing river. What analogy would you use to capture Harry's temperament?

2. Write down images conjured by the concept of being twenty-one miles below the earth's surface. Arrange your images into a poem.

Chapter 22: Sunday Below Ground

1. What scientific questions are you asking yourself about this adventure underground? What things do you wonder about?

2. Upon their return the Professor would like to map their journey, making a kind of vertical section of the globe. Beginning with this chapter, jot down information so you can construct a vertical map of the trip.

3. What points does Harry want to argue with his uncle? Why does he decide not to anger him?

4. If you were traveling with this group, which question would you most want answered at this point in the journey?

Chapter 23: Alone

1. Imagine the deep quiet of the places the group is traveling. What affect would this have on you?

2. Being one hundred miles down inside the earth must be overwhelming. After being underground for six weeks and still moving downward, what do you think would bother or worry you the most? Write your thoughts in a journal entry.

3. Harry now has no idea where he is. What advice would you give him?

Chapter 24: Lost!

1. Have you ever been lost or have you ever searched for someone who is lost? Recount your feelings.

2. What would you be thinking if you were in Harry's position? Record your thoughts.

3. Develop a short plan of action you think Harry should follow.

4. Have you ever been in a place so dark you cannot see your hand in front of you? Write down fragments of thoughts and images that come to you as you think about being in complete darkness.

Chapter 25: The Whispering Gallery

1. What does Harry's uncle say were the sounds like thunder?

2. How does he figure out the acoustic nature of the place he is in? How well would you be able to think if you were in Harry's predicament?

3. What did you learn from the Professor about his feelings for Harry? Do you see any pattern in his expression of feeling for his nephew?

4. Draw a sketch of where each of the characters is in relation to the others.

Chapter 26: A Rapid Recovery

1. How important is good luck and coincidence in finding Harry? Are any of the coincidences too hard to believe?

2. In addition to possessing the skills needed to guide an expedition of this scope, what else do we find out about Hans' skills in this chapter?

Chapter 27: The Central Sea

1. How does Harry explain the light source?

2. Can his explanation of clouds be verified by current scientific information?

3. If you were underground for forty-seven days, what do you think you would miss most?

4. Does the Professor's explanation of how sedimentary soil exists inside the earth make scientific sense?

5. If you could return to any time period to see plants and animals, which period would you most like to visit? Which animals and plants would you like to see?

Chapter 28: Launching the Raft

1. Does the Professor's explanation of the tides affecting the underground ocean make scientific sense?

2. The Professor says, "science has fallen into many errors" (173). Do you agree with him? Think of examples to either support or refute his statement?

3. The Professor explains that the wood for the raft had been mineralized by the sea. How does this differ from the earth's fossilization process?

4. Predict what the adventurers will encounter next. What advantages do you see to raft transportation? What disadvantages?

Chapter 29: On the Waters - a Raft Voyage

1. Harry, in a waking dream, imagined mammoth turtles and giant Mastodons. Why do you think this information is included in this chapter?

2. If you had an opportunity to hold or touch a live specimen of an extinct species, what would you choose?

3. Reread the section on Harry's "dream." From what you know of the formation and evolution of the world, does his dream seem accurate?

Chapter 30: Terrific Saurian Combat

1. How would you respond to the Professor's grousing about wasting time?

2. Hans gets his pay regularly each week. Why might Verne think it important to include this information?

3. When the crowbar is retrieved with teeth bites on it, how would you react? What would you recommend to the others?

4. Write a news story for a tabloid newspaper explaining the teeth marks.

5. Make a sketch of one of the creatures Harry describes.

6. Compose the speech Harry would like to make to the Professor about putting them in so much danger by insisting on sea travel.

7. Harry declares, "My worst fears were realized" (161). What fears would you have if you were Harry? What are your worst fears?

8. Create a storyboard or picture outline of this chapter that would help a movie producer decide how to represent this chapter's main action in a movie.

Chapter 31: The Sea Monster

1. Harry knows how to handle his uncle. Write a letter to Harry telling him how you think he gets along with the Professor.

2. Harry thinks he sees a monster. What have you imagined that turned out to be something entirely different?

Chapter 32: The Battle of the Elements

1. Write the diary that Hans could have written as he is living through the storm.

2. Write in stream-of-consciousness format all the thoughts going through Harry's mind when he first spots the fire ball until it disperses.

3. Compare the worst storm you have ever witnessed to the storm described in this chapter.

4. Make a prediction about where you think this storm took the adventurers.

Chapter 33: Our Route Reversed

1. Would you feel better or worse after hearing the Professor say,
"We shall not come out by the same opening as that by which we entered" (214)?

2. Look at the list of food supplies. Could you exist on such a diet for an extended period of time? How would this diet affect you?

3. Write a nutritionist's report on the diet of the three characters during this journey, analyzing it in terms of what dietary requirements it meets or fails to meet.

Chapter 34: A Voyage of Discovery

1. What would be your reaction if you had suffered as this group had and accomplished nothing? Is there another way this could be interpreted? What of value could come out of such an experience?

2. Harry compares their great find to a book lover discovering a great library that had been burned down in an earlier age. What things from a much earlier time would you like to encounter? What could you learn from them?

3. How do you account for the presence of a human skull in the midst of all these animal bones (223)?

4. What do you think will happen now that they have found piles of mammal bones and a human skull?

Chapter 35: Discovery upon Discovery

1. There has always been controversy about when humans first lived on the earth. What are your views and on what do you base them?

2. Why do you think all the bones are together in one big area? Create a scenario to explain this phenomenon.

3. What would you most like to discover or prove? Why is this important to you?

Chapter 36: What is It?

1. What do you make of the strange new developments in this chapter? What do you believe Verne's purpose is in including this parallel universe?

2. So far, which of the wonders under the earth have been most difficult for you to accept? Explain.

Chapter 37: The Mysterious Dagger

1. Why is the Professor able to admit that he doesn't know where he is?

2. Why was the dagger left behind? Was it done on purpose?

3. Create a story about the dagger.

Chapter 38: No Outlet - Blasting the Rock

1. Once Harry and the Professor discover Arne's initials, Harry is eager to continue the trip. Why do you think Harry's attitude changed so quickly?

2. Do you agree that the dreadful storm they endured was really in their best interest? Describe a difficult time or event in your life that turned out for the best.

3. What do you think will happen when they blast the rock?

Chapter 39: The Explosion and Its Results

1. Have you ever experienced the sense of falling? How did you handle this sensation?

2. Harry and his uncle may be having second thoughts about the wisdom of setting an explosion. If Harry broached the subject, how would the Professor respond? Construct that conversation.

3. Now that the raft has stopped, what do you think will happen next? What do you think stopped the raft from falling farther?

Chapter 40: The Ape Gigans

1. What do you make of Harry's "dream"? Why do you think Verne put it here in the novel?

2. What possible fate could be in store for the three?

3. Why does it seem to bother the Professor so much that they are without food when he showed so little concern when they were without water?

4. Draw a cartoon strip that illustrates the events in this chapter.

Chapter 41: Hunger

1. Do you have any meals that you remember as vividly as Harry remembers the meal he had once while he was birds' nesting? Why do you think you recall it so clearly?

2. Even in their great peril the Professor still believes, "While there is life there is hope" (266). Do you agree with him? Should you ever despair?

3. Harry often says, as he does in this chapter, "As long as he [Hans] received his three rix-dollars every Saturday night, he was prepared for anything" (267). Do you think anyone can work solely for money as Hans seems to do?

Chapter 42: The Volcanic Shaft

1. Harry says, "It is only when you suffer that you really understand" (268). In what ways do you think this is true? In what situations doesn't this advice seem to apply?

2. Is Harry stereotyping when he says in speaking of Hans, "who was yet gifted with the fatalistic resignation of Oriental character" (268)?

3. What can it mean when a compass goes mad and does not point in the true direction? Have you ever seen this happen?

4. Do you think the Professor is correct when he say this is the most fortunate thing that could have happened to them? Why? Why not?

5. What sorts of horrible things could happen to them next? Predict how you think they will extricate themselves from their predicament.

Chapter 43: Daylight at Last

1. Create the scene, left out by Verne, of the three being spit out of the volcano.

2. Write the thoughts the shepherd boy must have had when he saw the three disheveled men approaching him.

3. Now that the journey is over, what incidents do you think Hans will tell to his family when he returns to Iceland?

Chapter 44: The Journey Ended

1. Write the newspaper articles announcing the homecoming of the Professor.

2. Create an article that could have appeared in a scientific journal disproving the theory of central heat.

3. Compose a letter Harry might write to his uncle explaining how the trip contributed to his growth as a person and how he felt about the experience now that it is over.

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