Jules Verne and the Loss of American Heroism
In the late 19th century, adventure and science fiction writer Jules Verne repeatedly praised Americans’ ingenuity, inventiveness, and strong work ethic. Both in the crafting of his characters and his descriptions of Americans generally, the French author exhibited a remarkable appreciation for this people’s attitudes and contributions to the world, sometimes to extremes.
Take, for instance, From the Earth to the Moon, the premise of which is that a group of ex-Civil War ballistics experts, The Gun Club, having grown bored in peacetime, propose to build a cannon so large and powerful as to send a projectile to the moon. The entire world is taken up with the Americans’ ambitious proposal, and donations pour in from around the globe.
Verne’s eloquent musings on the transcontinental railroad in Around the World in 80 Days strongly endorse this same American work ethic, showing the energy and rapidity with which the rails were laid. It is these traits, making 19th century Americans such excellent heroes of these stories, which have faded out of the national profile as of late. If Verne were writing today, he would likely look beyond our shores for his heroes, and doubtless would
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