Themes and Meanings
In one sense, Around the World in Eighty Days is merely a superbly well-written romance of travel adventure. The form is what has been called traditional: chronological time and a single third-person narrator throughout. Though there is some dialogue, the focus throughout is on the action. Though some delineation of customs is evident, it is so limited that it hardly interrupts the rapid flow of the narrative. There are glimpses of religious customs in India and Utah, for example, and of American political procedures, but they are not developed.
The plot has affinities to two earlier works: It is a combination of an odyssey and a quixotic quest. The journey is arduous, with many hardships, many adversaries, many obstacles, overcome only by almost superhuman feats. The quixotic element is seen especially in the fact that the journey need not have been taken at all: It results from a whim and a wager. As Quixote at the end of book 1 is safe at home, so is Fogg, both having arrived under ignominious circumstances. Neither has actually profited from the original purpose of his journey: Fogg has not gained monetarily; Quixote has not bettered the people or society he has set out to serve; in several instances, both have brought hardship on not only on themselves but also those they have befriended. Quixote has his sanity back, but his further quests are suggested in the closing passage; Jules Verne’s closing passage tells of Fogg’s prize, his wife.