Around the World in Eighty Days | Study Guide

Jules Verne

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Around the World in Eighty Days | Chapter 26 : In which the express train travels the Pacific Railroad | Summary

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Summary

Fogg and his three companions leave San Francisco, California, the evening of December 3 on the Central Pacific line of the Pacific Railroad. They will transfer to the Union Pacific line in Ogden, Utah, for the trip to Omaha, Nebraska, where they will catch a train to Chicago, Illinois, and then a connecting train to New York City. The trip will take seven days, leaving the group just enough time to catch the steamship to Liverpool, England, on the December 11. In the middle of the afternoon on the December 4, the train has to stop to allow a herd of bison, numbering 10,000–12,000, to cross the tracks. Nine hours later, after the last of the cattle have shuffled away, the train rushes through the Humboldt Ranges and into Utah.

Analysis

This chapter focuses on the geography of the plains from California to Utah and the Sierra Mountains. It also describes the modern luxuries found on the Pacific Railroad and points out that the animals Americans call buffaloes are actually bison.

The narrator glorifies the mobility of the train as well as how it caters to the passengers' every need, from dining and drinking to relaxing and watching the passing views. For sleeping, each passenger compartment seat turns into a bed fitted with crisp linens, soft pillows, and a privacy curtain. Verne eloquently enthuses about the engine, a "sparkling box of jewels" pulling the cars through "picturesque panoramas." The train system that crosses from San Francisco to New York City corroborates Fogg's argument that the world is smaller. With the completion of the cross-country system, a trip spanning America from coast to coast takes seven days instead of six months.

Verne also addresses Americans' tendency to use the terms buffalo and bison synonymously, stating the animals in the herd are bison, and he speaks of them with respect and dignity. Passepartout, the worrying protector of his employer, finds delay caused by the bison completely frustrating. Phileas Fogg, as usual, remains serene during the hours it takes for the herd to cross the tracks.

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