Around the World in Eighty Days | Study Guide

Jules Verne

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Around the World in Eighty Days | Chapter 29 : In which various incidents will be recounted that could only have occurred on a railroad in America | Summary

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Summary

The train has just crossed the 101st meridian and is on its last leg to Omaha, Nebraska, when Mrs. Aouda's fear about Colonel Stamp W. Proctor becomes a reality. He interrupts Phileas Fogg during a whist game, telling him which card to play. This leads to an argument about when and where they should avenge their honor in a duel. The conductor leads the men to a carriage at the end of the train for their duel, but just when Fogg and Colonel Proctor are about to begin, a band of Sioux attacks the train, and a gun battle ensues. Mrs. Aouda uses one of the revolvers Passepartout purchased in San Francisco and shoots any warriors who appear in the range of her window. The driverless train hurtles down the track, bound to wreck if it isn't stopped. Passepartout pulls himself along the undercarriage of the cars until he reaches the safety chains and detaches the passenger cars from the engine. Soldiers at nearby Fort Kearney, having heard the battle, arrive and chase away the remaining Sioux. As the passengers check for those who are safe or wounded, they cannot account for three persons, and Passepartout is one of the missing.

Analysis

With only 357 miles between Fort McPherson and Omaha, Nebraska, fate decides to test Phileas Fogg's composure. Colonel Stamp W. Proctor sees Fogg and insults him during a whist game, and for the first time Fogg's placid façade cracks: "Perhaps I'll be better at another sort of game," he challenges his nemesis as he rises to his feet. That he brushes off Mrs. Aouda shows Phileas Fogg is rattled in this moment. Although Phileas Fogg has revealed wisps of emotion in earlier chapters—softness and devotion to Mrs. Aouda and happiness at finding Passepartout in Yokohama—here he reveals an angry and arrogant side. This moment also reveals how Phileas Fogg deals with bullies and provides a hint into his mysterious past: He is a man of action, not just a regimented intellectual. It is unusual when Fogg tells Mrs. Aouda "loudmouths" are not to be feared. To him, good guys win and bad guys lose—a viewpoint much less aligned with mathematical precision, Phileas Fogg's usual locus of control. Or possibly, Phileas Fogg finds a connection between mathematical precision and morality.

Mrs. Aouda joins the men in defending the passengers, surprising everyone with her accurate and deadly shooting. Mrs. Aouda displays many characteristics that run contrary to Victorian expectations—traveling with strange men and no chaperone; firing weapons; making marriage proposals. But she's not exactly a spokesperson for women's rights; she is, after all, the "prize" in the novel—as Fogg (and the narrator) strongly imply in the novel's conclusion.

Passepartout's hunch they would need guns in case of a raid is proven true when a band of Sioux attacks the train. Passepartout, who usually displays broadminded acceptance for other cultures, offers a sarcastic remark (and Verne offers some blunt commentary on American character) in the chapter when he says, "Well this really is America for you, and this train conductor is a real gentleman."

Fix is only concerned about Phileas Fogg's life so he can reap the reward money, or what's left of it. For all the time he has spent observing Phileas Fogg, eating and living on his dime and even playing cards with him, he refuses to consider he may be wrong.

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