Since speed is of the essence in this novel, Verne faced the problem of quickly, yet convincingly describing a vast array of settings, customs, scenarios, characters, and plot twists. He handles this problem cleverly; rather than describe them in detail, he offers the reader an itemized list of all the things Fogg did not see, thus adding to the feeling of urgent speed. About Bombay, for instance, he says:
Fogg didn't think of seeing the city hall, nor the magnificent library, nor the forts, nor the docks, not the cotton market, not the bazaars, the mosques, the synagogues, the Armenian churches, nor the splendid pagoda of Malebar Hill, with its two polygonal towers. He would not examine the masterpieces of Elephanta, . . . no, nothing!
At another time, the entire Ganges Valley flashes past the train windows "without Phileas Fogg ever thinking of seeing it:"
The panorama passed before their eves like a flash, save when the steam concealed it fitfully from view. The traveler could scarcely discern the fort of Chupenie, twenty miles south-westward from Benares, the ancient stronghold of the rajahs of Behar, or Ghazipur and its famous rose water factories . . .
Even though Fogg appears to look at nothing but his watch, his creator, Verne could not resist a good travelogue, and he describes Chicago, New York, and the 900-mile train ride across the North...
(The entire section is 272 words.)
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Ideas for Group Discussions
Verne's travel saga about two men circling the globe in order to prove that modern technology allowed them to do so in record time has never lost its appeal even for today's audiences who are familiar with the speed of jet travel. What exactly constitutes the fascination of this obviously old-fashioned novel? Why do we want to read about Fogg's achievements when we can do so much better? In a world where speed and technology have become commonplace, has traveling has lost its romance? What makes this journey so exciting? Are there modern travels that equal its fascination? Or is there any other form of modern literature that has taken the place of an old-fashioned adventure/travel story?
1. The opening chapter of the novel tells us all the things that Fogg is not. What is the purpose of this approach? Is Verne trying to describe or to ridicule the stereotypical Englishman? If so, what is Fogg?
2. Passepartout is the opposite of his master. What qualities does he possess that are lacking in Fogg, and vice versa?
Are the two just caricatures, or does Verne create them as full fledged characters? If so, how does he make them human and likeable?
3. Speed is the essence of this novel, yet Fogg is never in a hurry. How is this seeming contradiction possible?
4. Verne's female characters are usually rather flat and shadowy. Is this true of Mrs. Aouda? What is Verne's attitude towards women?
(The entire section is 488 words.)
To the late-twentieth-century reader, the idea of traveling around the world in eighty days is not astonishing. Nevertheless, Around the World in Eighty Days is Jules Verne's most popular work, and modern movie and television adaptations show that it still has contemporary appeal even in an age that is able to circle the globe in a matter of hours. To Verne's audience, the feat seemed improbable and exciting. Even outside of France the interest in the probability of Phileas Fogg winning his bet was tremendous and as the installments appeared in the Temps Journal, people actually made bets on the outcome of his journey.
As usual, Verne's characters do not simply engage in travel. There is a strong element of suspense as well as a wide array of the modern "machines" he likes to invent. The story starts at a London club where the members discuss the theft of a large sum of money from a London bank, and whether the thief will be able to get away with it. This prompts Fogg to say that modern travel is so fast that it is possible to round the globe in eighty days. When his colleagues challenge his hypothesis, he wagers that he can, himself, set out immediately and return to the club within eight days. Utilizing every form of transportation, steamship, train, and even on back of an elephant, Fogg thinks that he has lost his bet by twenty four hours, only to discover that he has really won because of the gain of an extra day due to the time...
(The entire section is 1083 words.)
Around the World in Eighty Days is the ultimate travelogue. Many writers have used the journey as a metaphor for life, but the actual literary journeys are not that common. They can be divided into two major groups—fantasy journeys can be found in books such as Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726) as well as Andre Norton's space fantasies. Unlike these voyages to non-existent places, diaries of famous explorers such as Captain Cook and Marco Polo are strictly factual, with the purpose to inform and describe unfamiliar but real parts of the world. Jules Verne's novels bridge the difference. Fogg's journey around the world serves as pure entertainment, yet Verne, whose novels educate the reader to the possibilities of science, is always ready to instruct, and to interrupt his hero's journey at any time to list the tourst sights of India, the Red Sea or Egypt in concise detail. The journey is a familiar literary metaphor for life used in many novels, and travelogues have long attracted readers. For instance, equally fantastic and unbelievable to his contemporaries, although based stricdy on fact, were the travel accounts of Marco Polo about his voyage to Cathay (the modern China); here, fact was even more surprising than fiction. In fiction, there is the imaginative precedent of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver, who visits a number of countries, but they are all kingdoms and realms of fantasy.
(The entire section is 230 words.)
Travel for its own sake seems to have fascinated Verne. In Keraban the Inflexible (1883), the Turkish hero is so angry at having to pay a fee to cross the Bosporus that instead he circles the Black Sea just to avoid the toll. Rail travel is the topic of Claudius Bombarnac (1894); Bombarnac is a journalist riding the newly opened Trans-Siberian Railroad. Even a travel agency takes the spotlight in another novel by Verne: The Thompson Travel Agency (1907) offers a low-cost trip to the Canary Islands. In order to make a profit, the agency provides no inland transportation, not even food or water, to its unfortunate tour group. Only the help of its French interpreter rescues them, and provides a happy ending.
(The entire section is 120 words.)
The earliest adaptation of Around the World in Eighty Days was provided by Verne himself. He wrote a lavish stage production of his novel, complete with elephants, snakes, and a real locomotive. It premiered in 1874, and ran for two years with enormous success. One of the most amusing modern motion picture adaptations was directed by Mike Todd for Warner Brothers. It had an impressive cast that starred David Niven as the imperturbable Englishman Fogg and the Mexican comedian Cantinflas as Passepartout. Famous stars like Marlene Dietrich, Shirley MacLaine, Charles Boyer, and Frank Sinatra provided cameo appearances, and Phileas Fogg even outdoes his literary counterpart by riding in a balloon. The film captures much of the color and excitement of the original. In 1989 the BBC aired a television series, Around the World in Eighty Days, where Michael Palin duplicates Fogg's adventurous feats.
(The entire section is 141 words.)
Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Allott, Kenneth. Jules Verne, 1940.
Born, Franz. Jules Verne: The Man Who Invented the Future, 1964.
Boucher, Anthony. Preface to Around the World in Eighty Days, 1956.
Costello, Peter. Jules Verne: Inventor of Science Fiction, 1978.
Evans, I.O. Jules Verne and His Work, 1965.
Haining, Peter. The Jules Verne Companion, 1978.
Waltz, George H. Jules Verne: The Biography of an Imagination, 1943.
(The entire section is 56 words.)