I recently finished reading “Around the World in 80 Days” by Jules Verne, a French Novelist whose adventure stories are said to have heavily influenced the genre of Science Fiction into what we know it as today. “Around the World in 80 Days” is a 242 page adventure book originally published in 1873. I decided to give this book a try because before reading this I had just finished another book by Jules Verne, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” which I found an interesting book. I realized that I liked the book and could potentially like even more of his work. the final deciding factor was when I saw his other books, such as “Journey to the Center of the Earth“, “The Mysterious Island“, and of course, “Around the World in 80 Days.” I had heard of all these books and I had an idea of how popular they were, but I didn’t know that Jules Verne had wrote all of them. Upon realizing this after I finished “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea“, I thought that I should give this book a try. And I did. And I liked it. This book has won many awards, and has been adapted into many movies, some of them being critically acclaimed. I can say that I agree with people who say that this is one of Verne’s best novels.
The book starts off by introducing us to the main character, Phileas Fogg, an Englishmen living in London. He is a wealthy Englishmen, but that is all people can really say about him, other than him being a member of the exclusive Reform Club (which is an actual club in London thats been around for a long time). The exact date is October 1st, 1872. Fog has just recently fired his last servant and replaced him with a man named Jean Passepartout, a Frenchman who carries around a pocket watch said to be his family heirloom. Fogg leaves for the Reform Club early in the morning, telling Passepartout to prepare some things before he gets back. While at the reform Club, Fogg engages in an argument about an article written in the Daily Telegraph, stating that due to the completion of a railway in India, it was n possible for a man to circumnavigate the globe in 80 days. Everyone at the Club states that it’s impossible, but Phileas Fogg says that even accounting for any sort of delay that could happen, it was completely possible for someone to make the trip in 80 days. Phileas Fogg is so confident in this that he proposes a wager, 20,000 British pounds (half of his total earnings) says that he can navigate the globe in 80 days. The members accept it, saying he needs to be back on December 21st. Fogg rushes home and tells Passepartout to pack his bags, as they are departing on the Mongolia to start the journey.
Their first stop is in Suez, Egypt. Fogg and Passepartout have no time to waste as they need to board a train to Bombay, India. While leaving for Bombay, they are noticed by a Detective Fix, who suspects Fogg as a robber who stole 50,000 British pounds from a bank a few days previously. He suspects the 80 day trip as a way to evade the police, and is determined to get an arrest warrant before Fix leaves english soil and goes to America. Fix then proceeds to follow them on their whole journey until he can get a warrant. While on a train from Bombay to Calcutta, they realize that the proposed railway has not yet to be completed, and that they cannot take to train to Calcutta. However, using the other half of his savings, Fogg buys an elephant and hires a guy, promising good money if they can make it to Allahabad in time. While on the trip, the guide takes them to the woods to use as a shortcut. However, the guide tells them to hide, and in doing so they witness a group of Brahmins leading a drugged girl named Aouda into the woods, where they plan on burning her at a funeral pyre. They make plans to rescue her, but the immense security causes them to lose hope. That is until the next morning, where a corpse lying at the bottom of the pyre springs up and scares the guards away. The body is Passepartout, who dressed up in the body during the night. Fogg proposes to take Aouda with them on their journey so that they can get her to her brother in Hong Kong.
As Fogg, Passepartout, and Aouda board a steamer to Hong Kong, Fix follows them on the same boat, befriending Passepartout, who is delighted to see someone he saw before traveling with them. When they arrive at Hong Kong however, they discover that Aouda’s brother had moved from Hong kong to Holland a long time ago. However, Fogg sees this as no problem, and offers to take Aouda on the rest of the journey around the world. Aouda gladly accepts the offer, and Fogg buys their tickets and orders Passepartout to check out their rooms, while he does business. Much to the delight of Passepartout, the steamer to Yokohama is expected to leave 12 hours earlier than scheduled due to its engine problems being fixed. However, before Passepartout can tell Fogg, Fix reveals to him that he suspects Fogg as a robber. Passepartout refuses to believe this, and as a result Fix gets him drunk and drugged, causing Fogg and Aouda to miss the steamer.
Fix finally sees this as his chance to finally arrest Fogg on English soil, as the warrant is expected to arrive soon, and the next steamer to Yokohama doesn’t leave in a week. Much to Fix’s disappointment, Fogg pays a pilot to take them to Shanghai so they can catch a steamer there. At this point, Fix is determined to follow Phileas Fogg around for his whole trip until they arrive in Liverpool, where Fogg can finally be arrested. Fogg, unknowing of Fix’s intentions, pays for a ticket for Fix aboard the steamer. When they finally catch up to Passepartout, they continue their journey by catching s steamer headed for San Francisco. Passepartout isn’t happy learning of Fix tagging along, but Fix tells him that he will no longer try to sabotage Fogg’s mission. When they get to San Francisco, they board a transcontinental train that is making a journey to New York. They encounter delays such as a herd of buffaloes that cause a 3 hour delay. After that, the conductor risks the lives of all the passengers by driving a train at full speed over a canyon bridge on the brink of destruction. They make it across, but not without the bridge shattering as soon as the train gets off of it. After that, a band of Sioux Indians threaten to derail the train and take it over. The Indians successfully detach some carts from the main locomotive, and end up kidnapping Passepartout. However, he is freed when Fogg gathers some help in rescuing him. However, this delay has caused them to miss their steamer, so they need to find an alternate route. When they find a steamer to Bordeaux, France, they take it, even though the pilot won’t change the course of the boat to Liverpool, causing Fogg to stage mutiny.
I was surprised at just how much events that the author wrote into the book that could have jeopardized the wager. Of course some things, like stormy weather at seas or something attacking them was obviously going to be used at some point. But what I couldn’t expect was how it was going to be used. For example, I was surprised when, during a terrible storm that causes the boat Fogg and his companions are traveling on to lose fuel, Fogg buys the ship just so he can burn it. I thought that this was a very interesting way to show just how increasingly determined Fogg was becoming, willing to do ANYTHING to win the wager. Another example is when the Sioux Indians attack the train they are traveling on. I didn’t expect this to happen and I was frankly surprised when it did.
I didn’t understand why the author kept bringing up Passepartout’s watch throughout the story. I felt that in the beginning it was a good literary tool to try to bring some personality to the character. But as the book progressed, I couldn’t understand why Jules Verne bought it up. On the way to Bombay, he brings it up when Detective Fix, upon first meeting Passepartout, mentions what time it is. He also brings it up when they’re heading to America, saying how happy he is that the time that the boats chronometer displays matches the time on his watch. The watch didn’t even cause any sort of delay or catastrophe that put the wager in jeopardy, as I expected it would. The following is one of the first scenes it’s introduced, in a conversation between Fix and Passepartout.-
“Above all,” said he “don’t let me lose the steamer.”
“You have plenty of time; it’s only twelve o’clock.”
Passepartout pulled out his big watch. “Twelve!” he exclaimed; “why it’s only eight minutes before ten.”
“Your watch is slow.”
“My watch? A family watch, monsieur, which has come down from my great-grandfather! It doesn’t vary five minutes in the year, it’s a perfect chronometer, look you.”
“I see how it is,” said Fix. “You have kept London time, which is two hours behind that of Suez. You ought to regulate your watch at noon in each country.”
“I regulate my watch? Never!”
“Well, then, it will not agree with the sun.”
“So much worse for the sun, monsieur. The sun will be wrong then!” (pg 37).
I feel that this introduction king of gave a feeling of ignorance to Passepartout, but I also feel like it gave sort of a personality to him. His refusal to change his with shows his faith in it and how much he values it as a family heirloom.
Since I’m on the topic of character development, I liked the way the author introduced each and everyone of the characters in their own unique ways. Phileas Fogg is introduced as a stereotypical Englishman whose social life is widely unknown, Passepartout is introduced as a replacement for a servant that Phileas Fogg previously fired, and Aouda is introduced as a woman who is being carried off to her death by a tribe of angry Brahmin, introducing her as a damsel in distress. Theses are unique ways to introduce characters and one of the main reasons that the book has stood the test of time over the years has been released. I honestly found this to be a really enjoyable book to read. I rate “Around the World in 80 Days” 9 out of 10.
1 thought on “Constantine’s Letter Essay #3: Around the World in 80 Days”
Very detailed and thorough letter-essay, Constantine. Nicely done.