Wednesday, May 5, 2010

19. Around the World in Eighty Days

Plot Summary
Phileas Fogg is a man of mystery. He lives a life of precision and schedule, and abhors distraction and disruption. Mr. Fogg's only social interaction seems to come from the gentlemen's Reform Club, where he spends hours on end involved with his favorite card game whist. The routine life Mr. Fogg leads changes forever when he hires a new servant named Passepartout, and when a small dispute amongst club members turns into a full on bet about the possibility of traveling around the world in eighty days. This bet is spurred by an article in the newspaper discussing a new railway system in India. Without hesitation, Mr. Fogg bets a group of club members that he can do what the newspaper claims, and travel around the world successfully in eighty days for a wager of 20,000 pounds. The men accept and Fogg sets out immediately with his servant Passepartout in tow.

Fogg's trip from the beginning is riddled with setbacks. Mistaking his identity for a bank robber, Fogg is trailed by the persistent Scotland yard detective Fix, who must strategically wait until Fogg is located in British territory before he can make an arrest. The villainous attempts of Fix to imprison the adventurous Fogg, are foiled time after time as Fogg makes his way around the world. With each new mode of transportation and each new country, there are new set of problems to deal with. Fogg must overcome faulty suspension bridges, wild bison, lack of fuel for his passage across the atlantic, Sioux indians, and even a duel to defend the honor of the women he loves. His entertaining voyage is a classic tale of heroism and adventure, and is filled with enjoyable interruptions and improvisation that turns a trip on schedule into a comic caper, and a thrill to the very finish.

Critical Evaluation
Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days is a masterpiece of adventure literature. Today we take world travel for granted, but at the time of the novel's publication in 1872, traveling around the world for an average man was an idea that was just emerging. The transcontinental railroad in America had recently reached completion, the suez canal was in operation, and India had just linked together their railway system. Verne capitalized on the idea of world travel by crafting a story that appeals to the thrill of exploration and adventurous nature of the human spirit. His entertaining classic is navigated by the mysterious and steadfast Englishman Phileas Fogg. This man's foggy past is overshadowed by his drive, determination, and quick thinking. As a character, Fogg is intriguing, and forces readers to ponder his past in order to understand his expertise as a world traveler. For a very new idea, Fogg seems to be right at home with navigating the treacherous landscapes of the developing world. Fogg's determination is equally matched by the Scotland Yard detective, Mr. Fix, who risks his livelihood and reputation to capture a bank robber he suspects is Fogg. This cat and mouse relationship is humorous and entertaining on its own, but the story receives an added comical punch with the entertaining actions of Fogg's bumbling servant Passepartout. What Fogg has in experience, Passepartout lacks, and in no time at all he is missing important departures, finding himself drugged, and even as a worker in a circus. The addition of a love interest also adds another interesting level to Fogg's adventure when he rescues a woman named Aouda who is scheduled to be sacrificed.

Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days is a strong adventure novel because of the exciting nature of the story and the interesting and humorous characters who inhabit it. The race against the clock nature of the story adds an exciting element to the story. With each setback, Fogg uses his reserve and intellect to outsmart his dire situations. This novel is as much a joy to read today as it must have been for those experiencing it during the birth of global travel. The influence this novel has had in the adventure genre of literature is profound, and the race creates a pace that readers will find enjoyable and memorable.

Reader's Annotation

For an Englishman living in 19th century London, a bet is not a trivial matter. Phileas Fogg has made such a bet with a group of respectable men, and now he must stick to it by traveling around the world in a mere eighty days.

Author Information

Jules Verne is a French author best known for his works of adventure and science fiction. Born in 1828, Verne quickly developed a passion for boating, exploration, and travel. At the age of 12 Verne even tried to sneak aboard an Indian sailing vessel, only to be caught and whipped by his father. This thrill of adventure and the technological advancements of travel would later shape his career as an author. Verne began his career as a stockbroker to support himself until he was able to make a living on his writing. Verne made friends with other prominent writers like Victor Hugo and Alexander Dumas, but it wasn't until he met French publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel that his career would take off. Through Hetzel, Verne would go on to publish his most classic works, which include: Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1864), From the Earth to the Moon (1865), Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1869), and Around the World in Eighty Days (1872). Verne's groundbreaking work in the genre of science fiction has lead him to be referred to as the "father of science fiction." His books today are just as thrilling and captivating for readers as they were when they were published over 100 years age.


Curriculum Ties
travel, the transcontinental railroad, the suez canal.

Book Talking Ideas
How has transportation and travel changed since the publication of Around the World in Eighty Days?
How has the novel influenced pop-culture?
Re-enact the wager scene.

Reading Level
Grades 7+

Challenge Issues
drug use, human sacrifice

Challenge defense ideas:
1. Make sure you are familiar with your library collection and the book in question.
2. Be familiar with your library collection policy.
3. If possible, speak with the person challenging the material and make sure they feel comfortable. Ask the customer what they disliked or disapproved of in the resource. If they still insist on challenging the material give them instructions on how to file a formal complaint.
4. Research professional reviews that speak to the material's merit, and get input from teen readers on why they found the book important.

Reason For Selection
I wanted to include at least one of the classics in my blog, and after reading Capt. Hook, I thought I would give the adventure genre another go. Around the World in Eighty days is a story I feel that many teens are familiar with because of the cinema and pop culture references, but I think it can and should be a valued part of their reading experience as well. With the popularity of television shows like The Amazing Race, Around the World in Eighty Days may be relevant now more than ever.

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