Jules Verne's famous novel Around the World in 80 Days is a story of extraordinary accomplishment. It describes the wonderful adventures of Phileas Fogg, an English gentleman who has agreed to a wager of 40,000 pounds that he can travel around the world in 80 days. The story depicts how his personal character, high values and single-mindedness of purpose enable him to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Though the story is fiction, the principles it depicts are profound truths of life and human accomplishment.
The story starts in London on October 2, 1872. Phileas Fogg is a wealthy, solitary, unmarried gentleman with regular habits. The source of his wealth is not known and he lives modestly. He fires his former valet, James Forster, for bringing him shaving water two degrees too cold. He hires as a replacement Passepartout, a Frenchman of around 30 years of age.
Later that day in the Reform Club, he gets involved in an argument over an article in The Daily Telegraph, stating that with the opening of a new railway section in India, it is now possible to travel around the world in 80 days.
The proposed schedule
|London to Suez||steamer||7 days|
|Suez to Bombay||steamer||13 days|
|Bombay to Calcutta||rail||3 days|
|Calcutta to Hong Kong||steamer||13 days|
|Hong Kong to Yokohama||steamer||6 days|
|Yokohama to San Francisco||steamer||22 days|
|San Francisco to New York||rail||7 days|
|New York to London||steamer||9 days|
This calculation does not take into account practical matters like trouble finding transportation, but Fogg is sure that with his superbly calculative mind he can actually do it. He accepts a wager for £20,000 from his fellow club members, which he will receive if he makes it around the world in 80 days. Accompanied by his manservant Passepartout, he leaves London by train at 8.45 p.m. on October 2, 1872, and thus is due back at the Reform Club at the same time 80 days later, on December 21.
Fogg and Passepartout reach Suez in time. While disembarking in Egypt, he is watched by a Scotland Yard detective named Fix, who has been dispatched from London in search of a bank robber. Because Fogg matches the description of the bank robber, Fix mistakes Fogg to be the criminal. Since he cannot secure a warrant in time, Fix goes on board of the steamer conveying the travelers to Bombay. During the voyage, Fix gets acquainted with Passepartout, without revealing his purpose.
Still on time, Fogg and Passepartout switch to the railway in Bombay, setting off for Calcutta, Fix now following them undercover. As it turns out, the construction of the railway is not totally finished, so they are forced to get over the remaining gap between two stations by riding an elephant, which Phileas Fogg purchases at the prodigious price of 2,000 pounds.
During the ride, they come across a suttee procession, in which a young Parsi woman, Aouda, is led to a sanctuary to be sacrificed the next day by Thuggee worshipers. Since the young woman is drugged with the smoke of opium and hemp and obviously not going voluntarily, the travelers decide to rescue her. They follow the procession to the site, where Passepartout secretly takes the place of Aouda's deceased husband on the funeral pyre, on which she is to be burned the next morning. During the ceremony, he then rises from the pyre, scaring off the priests, and carries the young woman away.
The travelers then hasten on to catch the train at the next railway station, taking Aouda with them. At Calcutta, they finally board a steamer going to Hong Kong. Fix, who had secretly been following them, has Fogg and Passepartout arrested in Calcutta. But they jump bail and Fix is forced to follow them to Hong Kong. On board, he shows himself to Passepartout, who is delighted to meet again his traveling companion from the earlier voyage.
In Hong Kong, it turns out that Aouda's distant relative in whose care they had been planning to leave her there, has moved, likely to Holland, so they decide to take her with them to Europe. Meanwhile, still without a warrant, Fix sees Hong Kong as his last chance to arrest Fogg on British soil. He therefore confides in Passepartout, who does not believe a word and remains convinced that his master is not a bank robber. To prevent Passepartout from informing his master about the premature departure of their next vessel, Fix gets Passepartout drunk and drugs him in an opium den. In his dizziness, Passepartout yet manages to catch the steamer to Yokohama, but neglects to inform Fogg.
Fogg, on the next day, discovers that he has missed his connection. He goes in search of a vessel which will take him to Yokohama. He finds a pilot boat which takes him and his companions (Aouda and Fix) to Shanghai, where they catch a steamer to Yokohama. In Yokohama, they go on a search for Passepartout, believing that he may have arrived there with the original connection. They find him in a circus, trying to earn his homeward journey.
Reunited, the four board on a steamer taking them across the Pacific to San Francisco. Fix promises Passepartout that now, having left British soil, he will no longer try to delay Fogg's journey, but rather support him in getting back to Britain as fast as possible (to have him arrested there).
In San Francisco, they get on the train to New York. During that trip, the train is attacked by Native Americans, who take Passepartout and two other passengers hostage. Fogg is now faced with the dilemma of continuing his tour, or going to rescue Passepartout. He chooses the latter, starting on a rescue mission with some soldiers of a nearby fort, who succeed in freeing the hostages. To make up for the lost time, Fogg and his companions hire a sledge, which brings them to Omaha, Nebraska, where they arrive just in time to get on a train to Chicago, Illinois, and then another to New York. However, reaching New York, they learn that the steamer for Liverpool they had been trying to catch has left a short time before.
On the next day, Fogg starts looking for an alternative for the crossing of the Atlantic. He finds a small steamboat, destined for Bordeaux. However, the captain of the boat refuses to take the company to Liverpool, whereupon Fogg consents to be taken to Bordeaux. On the voyage, he bribes the crew to mutiny and take course for Liverpool. Going on full steam all the time, the boat runs out of fuel after a few days. Fogg buys the boat at a very high price from the captain, soothing him thereby, and has the crew burn all the wooden parts to keep up the steam.
The companions arrive at Queens town, Ireland, in time to reach London via Dublin and Liverpool before the deadline. However, once on British soil again, Fix produces a warrant and arrests Fogg. A short time later, the misunderstanding is cleared up--the actual bank robber had been caught several days earlier in Liverpool. In response to this, Fogg, in a rare moment of impulse, punches Fix, who immediately falls to the ground. However, Fogg has missed the train and returns to London five minutes late, assured that he has lost the wager.
In his London house the next day, he apologizes to Aouda for bringing her with him, since he now has to live in poverty and cannot financially support her. Aouda suddenly confesses that she loves him and asks him to marry her, which he gladly accepts. He calls for Passepartout to notify the reverend. At the reverend's, Passepartout learns that he is mistaken in the date, which he takes to be Sunday but which actually is Saturday due to the fact that the party traveled east, thereby gaining a full day on their journey around the globe, by crossing the International Date Line.
Passepartout hurries back to Fogg, who immediately sets off for the Reform Club, where he arrives just in time to win the wager. Thus ends the journey around the world.
Fogg is an eminently disciplined man -- both in his emotions and in his thoughts. He has the innate capacity to accept every difficulty and ordeal that comes his way in a calm and detached manner. No matter how problematic or even absurd the circumstances, Fogg’s emotions are always tranquil and calm, as if he were detached from the intensity of every situation. And yet, interestingly his mind is always fully engaged in the issue at hand -- enabling him to rationally and most logically deal with any and all circumstance. In addition, his creative capacities border on genius, as he is able to meld a native intelligence and a broad knowledge of the physical workings of life with insights and intuitive-like inspirations that help him solve nearly every problem. Confronting one obstacle after another, Fogg brushes aside challenges and focuses all of his energies on achieving his objective. Along the way, he utilizes his uncanny creativity, ingenuity, and scientific know-how to solve every problem that crosses his path.
These qualities are further enhanced by an essentially kind and generous nature -- which can be seen in the goodwill that he consistently demonstrates toward his fellow travelers, as well as the people he meets along the way. That helps him win the respect of others at critical moments on his journey, especially important when he and his comrades face imminent danger. He also exhibits other notable faculties -- including his ability to remain silent without speaking, unless situations dictate that he do so. Together with his utter punctuality and masterful planning and organizing capacities, Phileas Fogg is the very embodiment of stability, rationality, and equality -- making him the perfect candidate to accomplish his ambitious goals.
Punctuality, followed in the West as the manners of kings, is a great social value which no one will break. Look at it not as a social value, but as a work value. What do we find?
- It is a strategy for one man to respect every other man.
- Man, through punctuality, relates to Time, the field of work. Moving from society to work is great. Moving further from work to Time is to move from the gross material plane to the subtle plane of knowledge. Punctuality was originally discovered by men who perceived the subtle truth of gross work. At heights of perfection, any vibration reaches the Absolute. Perfection in punctuality moves work from the subtle plane to the causal plane of Supermind, which retains the constant presence of the Absolute.
Phileas Fogg’s utter calm and equality in the face of extremely difficult circumstances attracted a magnificent response from life that provided him with his greatest moment of glory and success. It is an indicator that life on the outside responds to one’s inner efforts or capacities of higher consciousness. Maintaining a poise of inner calm and equality is one method that enables that miraculous-like dynamic. It is in essence a spiritual-like quality that tends to overcome the negative, while attracting the infinite potentials of life.
Phileas Fogg possesses spiritual equality. He is unmoved, unshaken, and undisturbed by every obstacle that comes in his way. He never loses confidence, never gets anxious or angry with anyone. He reacts neither to extreme physical challenges and discomforts such as sleepless nights weathering a storm on the deck of a ship, nor the disbelief or suspicion of those around him, nor the fear of losing his money or losing his life. He is equal. His perfect punctuality and physical organization is the base of that physical equality. It is an unconscious spiritual endowment at the physical level supported by his commitment to perfection in physical values (punctuality and orderliness). This equality is so powerful that every obstacle that rises gives way before his calm persistence. Had Fogg possessed this equality consciously, no obstacle could ever arise in his way for him to overcome. Instead, each obstacle would be converted into an opportunity. This equality attracts and wins for him Aouda, who has a rich emotional loyalty, gratitude and affection – spiritual endowment at the vital level. This equality attracts to him and wins him the devoted service of Passepartout, a servant of great loyalty, courage and fortitude, who risks his life for both Aouda and his master.
Phileas Fogg possesses an equality that is spiritual. That equality wins him the wager. He has taken punctuality and made it into an article of faith. His punctuality that was physical, taken to the extreme of perfection gave him the spiritual equality that rendered him immune against any failure in life. Did he know the origin of his strength? He passed through catastrophe, storms, fights, and unforeseen obstacles of every kind and still the spiritual power issuing from the physical skill of punctuality ensured him the success. If Fogg had understood the life value of a physical skill as a spiritual endowment, his success would have been ensured without all those obstacles cropping up on the way. That is the opportunity that awaits the Westerner.
When Passepartout is captured by the Indians, Fogg risks not only his money (he has no time to spare on his schedule) but also his life out of a sense of duty to try to save his servant. His selfless courage not only saves the life of the servant who has saved the whole train, but wins him irrevocably the heart of Aouda.
All Fogg's problems arise because he extends goodwill that is not called for by his mission but is compelled by his character. Because he risks the mission for this higher value, he ends up not only succeeding but achieving something far more valuable to him than the money or the achievement -- the love of Aouda. Up to his meeting with Aouda, Fogg’s trip is according to clockwork without delay or interruption and he is two days ahead of schedule. After she joins the party, every step of the journey is fraught with difficulties. She is a widow who was about to be burned. That misfortune expresses in the journey despite the goodwill, nobility and courage in her nature. Yet it is only because she proposes to him, that Passepartout discovers the mistake regarding the dates and Fogg reaches the Reform Club on time to claim victory.
Fogg shows extreme liberality in spending money. Though he never wastes it, money has no inherent value for him. He trusts Passepartout and others implicitly. He pays exorbitantly for the elephant without bargaining. He generously offers ₤1000 reward to the American soldiers if they can save the three captured by the Indians. He values life, honor and achievement above money and therefore money comes to him.
Fogg maintains a positive attitude to everything at all times -- to his mission, the people around him and the challenges he faces. He never blames anyone for his failures or delays, even when there is ample justification for doing so. Even as a mental discipline, such an attitude is nearly impossible to maintain and it has an extraordinary power over life.
In contrast to Fogg's positive attitude, Fix displays ordinary negative attitudes such as suspicion. No matter how often Fogg’s behavior contradicts Fix’s expectation of what the bank robber would do, Fix invents a new explanation in line with his original assumption. No fact will shake his belief.
- Around the World in Eighty Days, available at Project Gutenberg. Unknown translation.
- The Tour of the World in Eighty Days American edition, Butler Bros., 1887. From Google Books.
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