This month we’re discussing Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days and, like Les Miserables, I not only have never read the book previously, I also have never seen a movie adaptation. Thus I had no expectations nor preconceived notions to either support or deflate my enjoyment of the novel.
And I did enjoy it. Around the World in Eighty Days is, as you would surmise, a quick paced adventure centered around Phileas Fogg’s wager that he can travel the globe in a mere 80 days’ time, this of course before the time of air travel. What ensues is a series of near misses and unavoidable delays, all of which Fogg takes in with his customary calm.
I’ve read criticisms of Fogg, that he is too aloof, too stoic, too impassive. Yet I feel as if it were not Verne’s intent to draw complex characterizations; in fact each player in the story is a caricature of sorts, more or less one dimensional. Fogg imperturbable. Aouda devoted. Fix determined. Passepartout loyal in addition to providing comic relief.
I think two of my favorite scenes in the novel are when Fogg breaks his usual inpenetrable calm: when Aouda declares her true feelings and when Fogg finally grants Fix his just due.
Though it is Fogg’s trip that is the focus of the novel and not the destinations themselves, I enjoyed the rapid change of scenery and travel mode: from India and the daring rescue of Aouda from being burned alive to a skirmish with Indians in the American West. Boats, trains, and an elephant aid Fogg’s race against the clock, the clock proving to be ironic in the end.