The Mysterious Island Escapism and education

The novel The Mysterious Island1 was written by Jules Verne and published 1874. The main character Cyrus Harding (named Cyrus Smith in some English editions) is the ingenious scientist and engineer with extensive knowledge in the same way as captain Nemo in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

Whereas captain Nemo’s character has some demonic sides, Harding is idealistically depicted. The same could be said, in some degree, about all in the group that are stranded on the island. They are all very sympathetic displayed by the narrator “It must be said, however, that the settlers were ´men´ in the complete and higher sense of the word. The engineer Harding could not have been seconded by more intelligent companions, nor with more devotion and zeal.”

The plot centers around some men that are castaways on an island in the Indian Ocean. They have the fury of the elements of nature to struggle with. But thanks to their knowledge they manage to survive, and not only that. They thrive on the island as successful settlers that create tools and manufacture on the resources available: the establish agriculture, they domesticize animals, they find minerals and build machines. The scale of manufactory is almost resemblance modern industry.

The goal is obviously not to establish realism in every way. It is to show that the ingenious engineer together with cooperative men could achieve from almost nothing.

The value of reading the book lays much in its escapism, and it must also be said it is an novel with educational ambitions.

The author

Jules Verne (1828-1905) is sometimes called the “Father of Science Fiction“ for establishing many of the fundamental features of the science fiction genre. Among his most known books, besides The Mysterious Island, are Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870), and Around the World in Eighty Days (1873).

< 19th Century


1. The original French title is L'Île mystérieuse.