Around the World in Eighty Days | Study Guide

Jules Verne

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Around the World in Eighty Days | Chapter 3 : In which Phileas Fogg becomes involved in a conversation that could prove costly to him | Summary

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Summary

During their daily whist game, Phileas Fogg and his five Reform Club associates discuss a recent robbery at the Bank of England by a "gentleman" thief, who has escaped with £55,000. Andrew Stuart, one of the whist players, argues the robber will likely get away with the crime because the world is a big place and detectives won't be able to find him. Another whist player, Gauthier Ralph, expects detectives, motivated by the generous reward, will apprehend the robber quickly.

Phileas Fogg says to Stuart that the world used to be a big place, but this isn't true anymore. Stuart's curiosity prompts him to ask Fogg what he means. Fogg explains people can now circumnavigate the world in just 80 days because of the completion of a new railway spanning India. Another whist player, John Sullivan, shows them a timetable published in the Morning Chronicle newspaper, which shows exactly how the trip can be accomplished traveling by rail and steamship from London to India to Hong Kong and then on to Japan, San Francisco, New York, and back to London.

His friends argue he must consider unforeseen circumstances. Fogg states his 80-day itinerary does. Stuart then makes a £4,000 wager that Fogg can't accomplish such a feat, and Fogg counters with £20,000. The five whist players, Andrew Stuart, John Sullivan, Samuel Fallentin, Thomas Flanagan, and Gauthier Ralph, agree to Fogg's £20,000 wager. Trusting his propensity for detail, Fogg asserts he will circumnavigate the world beginning at 8:45 that evening and ending on December 21 at 8:45 p.m. in the Reform Club.

Analysis

The debate between Phileas Fogg and his friends leads to the main premise of the story: can time and travel be precisely calculated? Andrew Stuart is the main naysayer. He declares timetables don't take into account unforeseen circumstances beyond people's control. Claiming "there is no such thing as the unexpected," Fogg counters with his belief in planning and precision and his implicit trust in the technological advances around the world, highlighting the new trans-India railway. This leads Fogg to assert that the world has actually become smaller.

Verne merges Fogg's geographic knowledge and obsession with precision with Fogg's £20,000 wager to circumnavigate the world in 80 days. His five friends, now friendly adversaries, consider Fogg's plan sheer folly. Although they feel Fogg is insane to back the bet with such a fortune, they accept the wager.

Verne uses the seemingly innocuous robbery to foreshadow the subplot of the story.

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