Around the World in Eighty Days | Study Guide

Jules Verne

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Around the World in Eighty Days | Chapter 1 : In which Phileas Fogg and Passepartout agree their relationship, that of master and servant | Summary

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Summary

It is the morning of October 2, 1872. Phileas Fogg is an eccentric man living in an upscale London neighborhood on wealthy Savile Row. Meticulously precise in every detail, Fogg mathematically aligns every aspect of his life down to the second. When his servant, James Forster, errs by warming Fogg's shaving water to 84 degrees Fahrenheit instead of 86 degrees Fahrenheit, Fogg fires him.

Phileas Fogg spends every day exactly the same way, leaving for his only social outlet, the Reform Club, at the same time every morning and returning to his home exactly at midnight every evening. At the club, he reads a variety of newspapers, eats lunch and dinner, and plays the card game whist. He has no relatives, friends, wife, or children, and many people wonder where his wealth comes from; no one knows anything about him. He never discusses his private affairs with his acquaintances.

Between 11:00 and 11:15 a.m. Phileas Fogg waits for his new servant, Jean Passepartout, to arrive. Passepartout, a Frenchman, has spent his life jumping from one trade to another, and he is anticipating a peaceful, regulated life in Phileas Fogg's service. During their first conversation, Fogg notices Passepartout's watch is slow and demands he reset it to match the time on his. Then, Fogg breezes out the door and heads to the Reform Club.

Analysis

With Phileas Fogg, Jules Verne presents an enigmatic man who displays a well-mannered and disciplined nature. Although very little is known about him, his home and its location, his clothes, and his recommendation for membership in the prestigious Reform Club by the Baring Brothers Bank, one of the oldest and most prestigious in England, attest to his financial status. However, Fogg gives his winnings from whist to charities because he plays "for enjoyment and not to win." The importance of money—its beneficence and malignance—will be explored throughout the novel.

Readers should consider the protagonist's name—Phileas Fogg. Jules Verne might have decided on this name because of the alliteration, or musicality, of his first and last name, or for its British flair. It is possibly an example of Verne's droll sense of humor, as it represents a clearheaded man who prefers keeping others in a fog about his background, his emotions, his thoughts, and his personal life. Also, phil comes from the Greek verb meaning "to love," another example of Verne's humor, since Phileas Fogg seems to be motivated by principles and precision, not love, as his journey begins.

Clocks are a recurring symbol in the novel, and they are introduced immediately when Phileas Fogg asks Passepartout to synchronize his watch with his.

Jean Passepartout has led a life diametrically opposite his employer's. Now about 30 years old, he has been a "traveling singer, a horse-rider in a circus, a trapeze artist and a tightrope walker ... a gymnastics instructor ... and ... a fireman," and most recently a servant in a London home. His eclectic work history fits him, as does his nickname, which he says comes from his "natural ability to get ... out of tricky situations." The word passepartout means "something that passes everywhere." The character is aptly named for the adventures awaiting him.

A mysterious pattern in the novel begins here. Has Phileas Fogg purposely set up the entire adventure, or has he decided to go around the world on a whim? Does Phileas Fogg have predictive powers, or is he just lucky? It seems a little too coincidental that Phileas Fogg fires his servant for a "mistake" and already has a new servant on exactly the same day he decides to leave for a trip around the world.

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