Around the World in Eighty Days | Study Guide

Jules Verne

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Around the World in Eighty Days | 10 Things You Didn't Know


Jules Verne's 1872 adventure novel Around the World in Eighty Days tells of Phileas Fogg, an Englishman who enters a bet, that he can circumnavigate the globe within 80 days. The story follows Fogg's carefully planned journey from London through the Mediterranean, across Asia and the Pacific Ocean, through the length of North America, and back across the Atlantic.

Written decades before the age of aviation, the novel traces Fogg's adventures aboard steamships, on railways, and even riding on the backs of elephants. The novel was a notable departure from Verne's previous works—which are often classified as science fiction—as there are no futuristic elements or technological predictions (such as the Nautilus submarine in Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea).

Verne was inspired to write Around the World in Eighty Days by the rapid advances in transportation during the 1800s that would make such a trip possible. Around the World in Eighty Days has enjoyed enduring fame due to its memorable characters and inherent sense of adventure.

1. Verne once admitted that an advertisement prompted him to write Around the World in Eighty Days.

Verne explained in interviews that a chance encounter with a travel advertisement gave him the idea to write his globetrotting adventure novel. He noted that his inspiration was "due merely to a tourist advertisement seen by chance in the columns of a newspaper." Verne apparently contradicted himself about the source of this advertisement several times, and it's still not known for sure whether he saw it in a periodical or merely stumbled upon a brochure.

2. Verne's idea for the twist at the end of Around the World in Eighty Days came from an Edgar Allan Poe story.

Around the World in Eighty Days features a famous ending in which Fogg, while lamenting the loss of his wager, realizes that circumnavigating the world has caused him to "lose a day," meaning he has actually completed his trip on schedule. Verne thought of this plot twist after reviewing Edgar Allan Poe's 1841 short story "A Succession of Sundays," which uses the concept of the International Date Line as a puzzle.

3. Verne was going through troubled times when he wrote Around the World in Eighty Days.

Verne was under a great deal of stress at the time he composed Around the World in Eighty Days. During the Franco-Prussian War from 1870–71, Verne was forced to work as a coastguard—a position he detested and found incredibly boring. After the death of his father, Verne also faced money troubles, as his previous novels had not yet earned him royalties. Before the publication of Around the World in Eighty Days, Verne considered abandoning authorship to return to stockbroking.

4. Around the World in Eighty Days has its own theme park.

The novel's enduring popularity even led to the creation of an entire theme park dedicated to Verne's descriptions of world travel. The park "Worlds of Fun" in Kansas City, Missouri, describes itself as "a traditional amusement park themed around Jules Verne's adventure book Around the World in Eighty Days." The attraction features rides and games reminiscent of various locations that Fogg visits in the novel.

5. Although it saves Fogg's bet, the International Date Line did not exist when Around the World in Eighty Days was published.

While Fogg's wager is saved by the International Date Line, roughly located along the 180° line of longitude in the Pacific Ocean, this line was not formally established until 1884, more than a decade after the publication of Around the World in Eighty Days. However, there was a de facto date line in place during the 1800s, which sailors used to set their clocks back a day while crossing the Pacific.

6. Despite common associations, Verne never included hot-air balloon travel in the novel.

While Around the World in Eighty Days is commonly associated with images of Fogg riding in a hot-air balloon, Verne never included this particular form of transportation in the novel. Andrew DeGraff, an illustrator who drew a map of Fogg's route around the world for a 2015 edition, was surprised to discover the novel's absence of air travel. He noted:

There's no balloon! We think there is, but actually our memories have just been Disney-fied.

7. People have re-created Fogg's journey, often beating his time of 80 days.

Many ambitious travelers have viewed Around the World in Eighty Days as a challenge since its publication in 1872. In 1888 Nellie Bly, a reporter for the New York World newspaper, undertook the trip for a public-interest story and managed to beat Fogg's time by a full eight days. In 1903 James Willis Sayre completed the journey in 54 days and 9 hours, due in part to the recent completion of the Trans-Siberian railroad.

In 2014 two friends created a project called "Optimistic Traveler," in which they circumnavigated the globe with the added challenge of not using money. The duo was able to complete the trip within Verne's original timeframe.

8. Most of the destinations Fogg visits were part of the British Empire.

While the rapid innovations in rail and sea travel during the 1800s gave Fogg a chance to complete his trip, British colonialism also assisted his journey. Many of the foreign destinations Fogg visits were actually British colonial possessions during the late 19th century, including Egypt, India, and Hong Kong. Although the United States had been independent for nearly a century by the time Around the World in Eighty Days was published, it too had once been under British authority. British rule in these colonies made them more "accessible" to Westerners which, coupled with technological advances, made Fogg's trek possible.

9. A 2010 sequel follows Fogg's son as he attempts to circumnavigate the globe by car.

Gary Blackwood's 2010 novel Around the World in 100 Days, set in 1891, tells the story of Phileas Fogg's son, Harry, and his obsession with automobiles. After winding up in jail, Harry makes a wager with his father that he can circumnavigate the globe by car in 100 days, and if he fails, he'll give up his hobby of fixing and modifying automobiles altogether.

10. Orson Welles starred as Fogg in a radio broadcast.

Actor and director Orson Welles portrayed Fogg in a broadcast of Around the World in Eighty Days for The Mercury Theatre on the Air. The program aired only one week before Welles's celebrated presentation of The War of the Worlds, which famously convinced listeners that extraterrestrials had actually landed a spaceship in the United States.

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