At least in literature, adventure often surprises the least adventurous and the most unsuspecting people in their ordinary lives, dragging them off and away to save the world, to do daring deeds, or to travel the world in eighty days. And that is exactly what happens to rich, gentlemanly Phileas Fogg, a man who does the same thing every day for years, until one day. In Around the World in Eighty Days, author Jules Verne spins an extraordinary tale of how Phileas Fogg and his valet Passepartout cast Fogg’s life of routine out the window and embark on a trip to circle the globe in eighty days.
The adventure begins in an unsuspecting manner. Phileas Fogg is dwelling in late nineteenth century England and, as usual, goes to his club. However, when Fogg tells his friends at the club of a newspaper article which states that, thanks to the modern transportation system, the entire world can be crossed in eighty days, his friends deny the article’s accuracy. Fogg says that the feat can be done and enters into a wager with them, promptly setting out from England with Passepartout to prove them wrong at the risk of £20,000 (for the curious, approximately $650,000 by today’s standards). Without any forewarning, the unadventurous pair find themselves thrown into a journey through exotic countries full of dangerous people and treacherous paths. And to top it all off, they are being secretly trailed by Detective Fix of Scotland Yard who suspects Fogg of being a bank robber.
Without Phileas Fogg as its main character, Around the World in Eighty Days would be an entirely different book, for Fogg is most unusual. First of all, he is very honorable and sticks up for his views, no matter what the risk to himself or his fortune—hence the wager with his friends and the venture around the world. In addition, Fogg is timely and very particular, but the best aspect of his character is that, beneath the indifferent and meticulous outside, hides a good, generous heart. One of the few characters who delves deeply enough to discover this heart is Passepartout, Fogg’s French valet. When he enters Fogg’s service, Passepartout thinks he has found the ideal master and is ready to settle down in a quiet, well-ordered life. Consequently, the journey around the world, which begins the very day Passepartout starts working for Fogg, delivers quite a blow to Passepartout’s ideas of an easy life. Passepartout is a likeable man who makes friends easily but is also careless and absentminded at times. After resigning himself to the hectic journey his master is dragging him on, Passepartout eventually realizes that he is enjoying himself and that perhaps a quiet life can wait for the moment. The story’s third character is Detective Fix, and he is determined to apprehend “guilty” Phileas Fogg. However, this requires Fix to tag along with Fogg around the world, and Fix finds himself participating in many of Fogg’s and Passepartout’s adventures.
Around the World in Eighty Days is a delightful adventure story. Tagging alongside the main characters as they traverse Europe, India, Asia, the Pacific Ocean, America, and the Atlantic is a fun pursuit, and Verne’s book is a well-woven tale that has certainly earned its position as a classic in the library of fiction.
P.S. A fun version for children that has forever shaped how I imagine Vernes’ characters is Van Gool’s adaptation of Around the World in 80 Days (see picture on right). The illustrations are engaging, and I would highly recommend it for kids! I loved it as a little girl and still feel nostalgic just thinking about it.