Around the World in Eighty Days | Study Guide

Jules Verne

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Around the World in Eighty Days | Chapter 28 : In which Passepartout is unable to talk sense into anybody | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 28 finds the passengers on the Union Pacific crossing the treacherous terrain of the Wasatch Range and Rocky Mountains. The danger is exacerbated by frigid weather, snow, and ice. Another menace threatens Phileas Fogg. Mrs. Aouda notices Colonel Stamp W. Proctor, Fogg's adversary in the San Francisco political melee, has boarded the train. With Passepartout and Fix's help, she concocts a plan to engage Fogg in whist to keep him from seeing his nemesis. A third situation threatening Fogg's wager arises when they find out the Medicine Creek Bridge is too weak to support the train. Forster, train driver and engineer, explains he will back up the train for a mile or so, and then allow it to gain full speed, enabling them to successfully "fly" across the bridge. The passengers climb aboard, and Forster performs the maneuver. He no sooner stops the train, five miles past the bridge, when the fragile structure collapses.

Analysis

A sense of foreboding pervades this chapter because of the treacherous terrain, the presence of Colonel Stamp W. Proctor, and the shaky bridge. Fogg's 80-day plan is threatened when the train can't cross a weakened bridge and trudging 12 miles in the snow would take too much time. A creative engineer solves the problem by powering up the engine so the train can leap the chasm. Passepartout is open to new thoughts, but this one is too bold, too shocking, and "too American." He continues to show he can physically push against typhoons and selfish men but not verbally. His voice is buried under the cries of those who agree with the outrageous idea. Verne shows his predilection for verbal irony—and his opinion of Americans—when he has an American passenger respond to Passepartout's objections by saying, "This is no time for thinking. No need!"

Verne fills this chapter with numbers: mountain elevations, lengths of tunnels, miles between different points, the cost of building the railroad system, and the time ticking down to the end of Phileas Fogg's wager. This focus on numbers is evident in the titles of his classic novels: Five Days in a Balloon, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and this novel—Around the World in Eighty Days. It raises the question: Did the author's fixation with numbers spawn the mathematically precise Phileas Fogg?

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