Around the World in Eighty Days | Study Guide

Jules Verne

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Around the World in Eighty Days | Chapter 16 : Where Fix appears to have no knowledge at all of what he's being told | Summary

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Summary

Phileas Fogg and Mrs. Aouda spend their trip on the steamship Rangoon together. Mrs. Aouda details her background, hopes, and fears while Fogg listens—reserved as always. Fix spends his time in his cabin, hiding from Phileas Fogg and Passepartout. Hong Kong, a British colony, is his last chance to arrest Fogg with an English arrest warrant; in Japan or America, he will also need extradition papers. Fix wonders who Mrs. Aouda is and why she is suddenly traveling with Phileas Fogg. Fix thinks maybe he can nab Fogg for abduction charges or at least prevent Fogg from leaving Hong Kong. He plans to wire London during a quick stop in Singapore. Back on the ship, he surprises Passepartout by creating a "chance-encounter" for a conversation.

Analysis

During the voyage from Calcutta, India, to Hong Kong, Phileas Fogg and Mrs. Aouda are in constant conversation—meaning she talks and he listens, always attentive but uninvolved. Fogg is "more buttoned up than ever" when in the presence of Mrs. Aouda. His lack of social grace and charm, along with his robotic behavior, suggest discomfort more than a lack of caring. Confronted with her worries about her future, he responds by saying they will "all turn out mathematically"—the same response he's given to every past conversation whenever anyone doubted him. In this moment, Phileas Fogg's belief system is crystallized: He believes facts and mathematics operate in the same way as fate or destiny.

Fix's strong resolve to win is motivated not only by greed for the reward but also by concern for his reputation; failure to capture Fogg will make Fix look incompetent. Ironically, it is Fix's desire to arrest Fogg that exposes his incompetence. The chapter title, "Where Fix appears to have no knowledge at all of what he's being told," emphasizes Fix's ignorance. Phileas Fogg has just performed a heroic act by saving Mrs. Aouda, which is strong evidence Phileas Fogg is not a criminal. However, Fix carries on with his plan to make Fogg miss his steamship connection from Hong Kong to Yokohama, Japan, until the arrest warrant arrives. Fix's single-mindedness is his character flaw; it acts as a foil to Phileas Fogg's character, and it serves to keep tension in the plot by constantly threatening Fogg's success.

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