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November 06 , 2007

Quicklet on Jules Verne's The Mysterious Island (CliffNotes-like Summary)



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La Théogonie

Commençons notre chant par les Muses, habitantes du haut et divin Hélicon, qui, près d’une noire fontaine, devant l’autel du puissant fils de Cronos, mènent des danses légères ; qui, après avoir baigné leur beau corps dans les eaux du Permesse, de l’Hippocrène, du divin…

If you are native to the US, you may not have heard much about Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island. Perhaps you may have heard of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea or Around the World in 80 Days? No? Not those either? Well you shouldn’t feel too bad. Regardless of the reason for said limited knowledge, it maybe true that if you are not particularly science-fiction inclined nor a fan of substantial 600 pages+ scientific books, it could at least somewhat explain your status on the subject.

Even for those who grew up in a French-speaking country (such as myself), Jules Verne, although well-known, was not exactly an author that was widely read in school. Even as a sci-fi fan of tender age, I already knew that Jules Verne was not for those who were ‘playing around’— and I have good reason to believe that I wasn’t the only one feeling that way either.


A current San Francisco Bay Area resident, Natacha Pavlov has been an avid reader and writer since her early years spent growing up in Brussels, Belgium. She earned her B.A. in Comparative World Literature from San Francisco State University and constantly flirts with the notion of earning her Master’s/PhD someday.


For his voyage series, Verne had wanted to create a newer, modern version of Robinson Crusoe or deserted island-inspired piece. However, according to, this “major novel had a rough start,” and “his first attempt, Uncle Robinson, was flatly rejected by his publisher Hetzel,” questioning the novel’s lack of science and suggesting a complete start-over. Sure enough, Verne’s second draft proved favorable for publishing.

True to the Robinsonade literary style, The Mysterious Island chronicles the adventures of 5 castaways stranded on a deserted island. The castaways basically start off with nothing but soon learn to master their environment, yet eventually notice that mysterious things are happening on the island.

The castaways first write it off as “divine guidance,” but as the help given becomes increasingly more scientific in nature, the novel’s adventure starts to take form and the mystery is eventually resolved. By using this dual imagery—mysticism vs. science—Jules Verne could have been highlighting the way both God and science help people in trouble, since he was both a man of faith and a science enthusiast. (

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