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

Students can select from among the several options that follow:


1. If characters from this novel were on a talk show such as Oprah Winfrey, what issues would they discuss? What other guests would be invited on the show to provide a lively conversation? Write the script and perform it for your class.

2. Create a word collage that captures the essence of the novel and gives viewers a good idea of what the book is about. Cut out 30 to 40 words and phrases from magazines or newspapers that describe the novel. Words may describe setting, characters, theme, or plot. Write the book title in the center of a blank sheet of paper and then glue all the words on the page, filling the entire sheet. Write about why you chose the words.

3. How would you visually represent this journey? What symbols would you use? Try creating a poster or picture that represents the important elements of the story.

4. Examine Verne's stance on science. Does he elevate it to a position of authority? Does he view science with reverence and awe? If science is based on facts, how can there be different theories on the same topic? Participate in a panel discussion on these issues.

5. Does Verne value intuition over science or science over intuition? Look carefully at Harry as the embodiment of intuition and the Professor as the embodiment of science before drawing conclusions. Debate this topic.

6. One assumption of this novel is that exploration for new knowledge (i.e. through trips inside and on the earth) should not be questioned. Write an editorial on your views of the wisdom of inner earth explorations and the implications they might have for the world and its inhabitants.

7. Create a scrap book for Harry, cutting out pictures from magazines or drawing the mementos of his Journey to the Center of the Earth that he would want in a scrap book.


8. To show your understanding of one of the characters, go through several magazines and newspapers looking for advertisements of goods you think your character would like. Cut out the pictures, mount them on a poster board, and under each picture write a few lines about why this product would appeal to your character.

9. Write an article entitled "Learning Through Adversity" as Harry would write it.

10. Create a list of values (such as knowledge, obedience, duty, love, friendship, loyalty and so on) that the three characters seem to exhibit. Then choose the top three values for each character and the three values that each character would not see as important. Which values do they share? Make some generalizations about the characters from this activity.

11. If you have collected quotes from the Professor throughout the novel, collect them into a booklet called "The Real Professor Hardwigg" and then write an explanation of what these quotes taught you about him.

12. Create several awards for each of the three characters to commemorate some of their memorable actions in the novel. For instance to whom would you give an award for bravery? for foolishness?

13. Create a home page with appropriate background and connections to links for the Professor or Harry.

14. We get to know a lot about a character by understanding his fears. Think about the actions of Harry and the Professor and make some inferences about they fear the most. Write an essay on each character's major fear. Include the evidence you used to come to this conclusion.

15. Select five current news or feature stories from television or news magazines you think the Professor or Harry would find interesting. Explain how your character would respond to what was happening in each story.


16. On page 299 in the Afterword, there is a short list of archetypal motifs such as light and dark. Choose one of the contrasting pairs of motifs and write an essay exploring the use of that motif in the novel.

17. Characters in many novels go on journeys and through these journeys learn much about life and about themselves. How do Harry and the Professor change by the end of the book? Describe the inner journey each of them takes through their explorations and what they learn by the end of the journey.

18. Compare Verne's novel to a contemporary science fiction or fantasy novel in which a journey occurs. Are there similar motifs and/or themes?


19. Imagine you are a copy writer for a travel agency wanting to package and promote trips to the center of the earth. Create a pamphlet advertising the trips so that people will be willing to pay for them. Mention the settings as well as the adventures that are in store for vacationers. Use very positive, persuasive language.

20. Iceland was the setting for many chapters at the beginning of the story. Why do you think Verne selected Iceland as the site for a descent into the earth? Why did he give so much information about the culture and customs of Iceland? What impression do you think he was trying to create through his use of this country?

21. Select a contemporary science fiction or fantasy novel that moves from the "real" world to an "imaginary" world. How is the contemporary novels similar to Verne's novel?


22. Chapter 39 seems to read much faster than other parts of the book. Compare the sentence structure in this chapter to others in which Harry and his uncle are engaged in more leisurely activities. Compare sentence length, use of adjectives, use of active versus passive verbs, and so on.

23. Examine the list of words you collected while reading the novel. Which do we no longer use? Look up these words in the dictionary. Why do you think these words are now obsolete. What words, if any, have taken their place?


24. Create a series of telegrams the Professor might like to send to his fellow scientists reporting new discoveries. Collect them in a booklet and write an end piece summarizing what the Professor learned on his journey.

25. Create a one-page newspaper covering at least three events in the story. Interview the characters as part of composing the news or feature stories.

26. Decide which scenes or pictures from the novel each main character would want to remember. Then draw several of these "photos" for an album or write about which pictures the characters would want in his album.

27. Review the book and make a list of all the things you find hard to believe. Then write Verne a letter explaining why they seem improbable and what you would put in their place.

28. Create a series of six drawings in six squares showing a significant event in the novel. Under each picture or cartoon, write a few lines of explanation.

29. Hans's role seems to be to do the extraordinary as a matter of course. What purpose does he serve in the story?

30. If you were to do a five-part TV series of this book, how would you divide the story into episodes? What will you put in each episode? How will each episode conclude so viewers will tune in again?

31. Make a timeline of the trip indicating the important events and also indicating what you would consider the easy parts as compared to the difficult parts. Share your timeline with your classmates. Compare the time lines and discuss why they differ.

Craft of Writing

32. Look at how the chapters were written. Can you divide the chapters into distinct parts? Can you see any patterns in the chapters? Try your hand at constructing a chapter of a story as Verne does.

33. The Professor has a distinct style of arguing or answering objections. Find several examples of these arguments and then see if you can imitate the style the Professor uses for an argument of your own.

34. Select a chapter you think is quite descriptive and create a "found" poem from the words and phrases in the chapter. For instance, this "found" poem comes from pages 161 and 162:

The Sea Shore

The shore
A beautiful soft golden sand
mixed with small shells
the long deserted home of creatures of a past age
The waves
broke incessantly
with a sonorous murmur
a slight frothy flake arose
as the wind blew the waters
and many a dash of spray
was blown into my face.

35. Verne used only one extended flashback in this novel which appears in Chapter 41. Why did he use it at that point in the story? What did it accomplish? Are there other places the story could benefit from a flashback?

36. Jules Verne tells an exciting story, making readers want to know what is going to happen next. How does Verne create this suspense? What plot devices does he use to keep reader interest high? Try your hand at using some of these plot devices by creating a chapter of your own.

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