Verne Biography Works Style Critics Term Paper

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His son, Michael, oversaw the final stages of publication, after his death, of Verne's last written story the Lighthouse at the End of the World.


Of course, Jules Verne was and remains one of the most well-known writers of fiction in the modern age. Although he was doubtlessly a gifted writer, and used a handful of literary mechanisms that were relatively innovative for his time, his enduring appeal as an author remains the fantastical subject matter of his stories. In this way, far more than any other writer from his age, Verne was a visionary. Though he failed to completely alter the primary literary conventions of the nineteenth century, he was instrumental in the invention of what has come to be the science fiction genre. Furthermore, his tales have revealed a level of foresight and scientific foresight that may never be equaled in literature.

Among his most significant works, and clearly one of the most accurate depictions of emerging scientific technology, was his Around the World in Eighty Days. Yet of course, this was not the first time that Verne had experimented with the motif of the hot air balloon. In the tale "Voyage in a Balloon," which was an early work but never actually published until 1919, Verne tells the story of a hot air balloon operator who is hounded by a stole away mad scientist type character. The man suggests that the operator should try to fly as high as possible, that he should cross the ocean, or even attempt to reach the planets. In this way, the madman could be interpreted as Verne's inner voice, urging him to take his stories to greater heights and mold his knowledge of the known universe into a story of the unknown. This tale, unfortunately, ends with the madman falling to his death and the hot air balloon operator narrowly escaping. Still, it sets the stage for many of Verne's later works, and suggests the path that his artistic inclinations were taking him in.

From such beginnings, Verne entered a period in his writing, from about 1864 to 1876, in which he truly began to explore the reaches of his imagination and take millions of readers along with him "inside the earth, under the seas, into space, and across the continents. This period of almost-unparalleled creativity would make Verne's name known to the world."

His first masterpiece was Journey to the Center of the Earth. Verne was inspired by the recent discoveries of geological experts, as well as paleontologists. He was careful to pay very close attention to the scientific currents of his time, and delved into the very technical and complex theories that were being postulated around Europe. Verne was fascinated by the possibility that the lower levels of the earth could tell us things about the past which seem so distant to us on the surface. Clearly, Axel's dream conveys Verne's own excitement over the subject matter: "This entire fossil universe tolled through my imagination. It took me back into the biblical periods of creation, long before the birth of man, when the earth was unfinished and not yet ready to sustain him." Essentially, Verne takes the then popular theory that the earth was hollow and links it to the observable fact that the deeper into the earth we go, the more ancient the plant and animal fossils we find. Combined, these notions serve as a fantastic premise from which to launch a story; the adventures of Axel, Lidenbrock, and Hans convey not only Verne's expansive imaginative capacity, but also his attention to the details of nineteenth century science.

Journey to the Center of the Earth is also regarded as the first of a series of stories in Verne's work often called the "extraordinary voyages." Although all of the tales are distinct in their own way, they each follow something akin to the fundamental epic myths of the past. Perhaps the writer who put the concept of the literary myth best into a formula was Joseph Campbell. His notion of mythology, in all of its forms, follows a distinct set of stages, which he calls the monomyth. The monomyth "universally follows three stages: separation, initiation, [and] return." This pattern is very closely adhered to in many mythological stories, both modern and ancient. Verne, without knowing it, develops this classical form of storytelling into something uniquely futuristic in each of his "extraordinary voyages."

The remaining "extraordinary voyages" included From the Earth to the Moon in 1865, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea in 1869, and Around the World in Eighty Days which first appeared in Le Temps in 1872. All three of these novels are deliberately set in the time in which Verne lived, and utilized scientific notions and technologies that were quite comprehensible to his audience. From the seemingly simple way in which his characters attempt to reach the moon, to the principles that allow the nautilus to work, Verne keeps the fiction portion of his science fiction, for the most part, in the characters and their actions. The science, in truth, is very close to what people of the twentieth century would actually utilize to travel to the moon and build submersibles. Overall, the pervasive theme is his writing is the drive to explore the unknown. Captain Nemo states, "The sea is everything. It covers seven-tenths of the globe. Its breath is pure and healthy, it is an immense wasteland where man is never alone, for he feels life stirring on all sides." Clearly, no mater what the particular vessel -- a balloon, a ship, or a capsule -- Verne's works reveal his pervasive attraction to the limits of mankind's knowledge.


There is very little debate among the literary community about who the father of science fiction is: Jules Verne. It should not be wholly surprising that it took writers in the Western tradition so long to arrive at such a genre of fiction; after all, the dozens of centuries that passed since the birth of Western literature with Homer, to the dawn of the nineteenth century saw relatively little by way of scientific advancement. The nineteenth century saw change of a manner and magnitude never before experienced in world history. Technological, governmental, and ideological transformations made the nineteenth century span the gap between the modern world and the ancient world: "At the start of the century, life was not so very different from Roman times -- although a Roman would have been very shocked by the state of the roads and the filthy towns. But by the end of the century life was not so very different from the world we know today." By this interpretation of events, the middle ages in Europe had taken well over a millennium to finally match the living conditions and way of life enjoyed by the Romans; however, the next hundred years would be a period of unprecedented change and social upheaval. Largely, these changes were associated, in some way, with the industrial revolution, which reorganized the economy, the city, travel, the government, and warfare. New ways of life demanded new ways of interpreting the world. This was a time of accelerating change, and literature reflected this change by inventing a new genre of storytelling: science fiction.

This is important in conceptualizing the style of Verne's writing, because although the plot lines and characters in his tales may be at least somewhat conventional, the revolutionary aspect of his approach to literature was precisely where he placed the importance of science in the modern world. For the first time in the history of Western writing, an author situated the theories of science at the core of his artistic expression. Accordingly, it should be noted that Verne's pervasive themes of escape and exploration seem to be applicable to the age out of which his writings emerge: "Verne's most exciting novels would seem to be defined less by their precise historical resonances than by their escape from the contemporary social setting." In other words, his stories take the ordinary into the extraordinary, with scientific theory as the ignition. So for the first time in history, a mythical story was able to be conveyed in a modern, empirical, and seemingly tangible manner.

Still, the specific language that Verne uses is still steeped within the late romantic tradition. He is very capable of evoking emotion through his writing: "The strange history of this region passed through the Doctor's mind as he leaned on the rail and followed with his eyes the long wake left by the brig. Thoughts of its daring navigators crowded into his memory, and he fancied he could perceive, below the frozen crests of the icebergs, the pale ghosts of those who would return no more." Essentially, though Verne is undoubtedly committed to empirical mechanisms of explanation and storytelling, he also owes a debt to the romantic movement from which…

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