Around the World in Eighty Days | Study Guide

Jules Verne

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Around the World in Eighty Days | Chapter 12 : Where Phileas Fogg and his companions venture into the Indian jungle, and what this leads to | Summary

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Summary

Phileas Fogg and Sir Francis Cromarty endure their jarring ride in the howdah seats attached to Kiouni the elephant's back in stoical silence, but Passepartout laughs joyfully at the unique experience, tumbling like an acrobat during the trip. For hours they pass through dangerous country where local tribes have used their knowledge of the rugged landscape to repel British rule. The travelers spend the night in a decrepit bungalow, leaving around dawn the next morning to complete the last leg of their journey to Allahabad. When he hears other travelers, the Parsee guide tethers Kiouni in thick foliage and tells his passengers to stay on the elephant but to keep silent. A band of Brahmins (priests and scholars from the highest Hindu caste) and the rest of their procession pass by, leading a shackled and drugged woman surrounded by heavily armed guards. In the center of the parade, they carry a platform with the corpse of a rajah prince laid upon it. The Parsee explains the woman is a suttee, the widow of the deceased prince who is to be burned alive with her husband the next morning. Fogg suggests, "Suppose we save the woman."

Analysis

Fogg fully trusts his itinerary, just as he has always embraced his rigid lifestyle, and he never worries about others' ability to carry out their duties. Now that Passepartout believes fully in Fogg's wager, he stresses so his employer won't have to. Fogg shows no interest in the scenery or the people they pass until the Brahmin procession. This show of caring is so shocking it causes Sir Cromarty to say, "So you do have feelings after all." Fogg's actions reveal warmth in his character, which is crucial to the self-sacrifice theme. The drugged woman is not allowed a choice, and this has touched Phileas Fogg. The trip is starting to free Fogg from his exacting persona and the stereotype of the stiff English gentleman.

There is also more colonial tension in this chapter. The characters view the human sacrifice ceremony of an indigenous religion as religious fanaticism. Are they wrong to save the woman? Are they imposing their European perspective on this ancient custom? This kind of fanaticism (as it was deemed by the British)—including abuse against women—was used as an excuse for invasion, colonization, and policing, essentially transforming various non-European traditions. The chapter references the need to "stamp ... out" certain practices—a major colonial narrative popularized through the second half of the 19th century. While at other instances in the novel Verne seems to take issue with the colonial mindset, here he clearly sees Mrs. Aouda's rescue as a matter of justice.

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