Europe and the World
How does Jules Verne describe indigenous people, from societies and cultures outside of
Europe in the novel Around the World in Eighty Days? What kinds of encounters take
place between the protagonists of the novel, Phileas Fogg and Passepartout, and people
from other parts of the world? What does the way Verne describes these encounters teach
us about European culture and society in the 19th century? (book:around the world in 80 days)
• You do not need to answer each and every question in the prompt. But we do
want you to pay attention to the third question, that is, what Verne’s novel teaches
us about European culture and society in the 19th century.
• You should bring in some of the themes covered in lectures when you’re
discussing the novel. So, for example, you could consider how the technological
innovations of the industrial revolution feature in the story. Or how the ideas of
Darwin shape some of the story Verne is telling. Or how European notions of
Empire and Imperialism play out in the novel.
• Keep in mind that Verne’s book is a work of fiction. It is not a factual record of
life in Europe (or anywhere else) at this time. Nevertheless, it can teach us
something valuable about modern European culture and society precisely because
it is a work rooted in the imagination, and not in factual reporting.
• You should use some quotes from Verne’s book as evidence for your
interpretation. But keep them short. (you do need to demonstrate that you have
read the novel and thought about it.)
• Like in the first essay, this one too should have a point (an argument, a thesis) and
you should state it early in the essay. The point should be based on evidence
(from the novel, from lectures, from other readings in the course.) And you should
use proper references, either MLA style or footnotes (but choose one method of
citation and stick with it throughout your essay.)
• Your essay must have a title.
• Remember to include your name and page numbers.
• Required essay length: 4 pages, double space, ‘12’-size font, Times New Roman.
• Proofread for spelling errors.
Demystifying Around the World in Eighty Days
Around the world in Eighty Days by Jules Verne is an adventurous story set in Victorian England but has various settings in various parts of the world in the 19th Century. The storyline is about the protagonist Phileas Fogg and his adventurous journey around the world in 80 days. The story is in the colonization period when a travel ban is removed. Phileas Fogg an English man accomplishes this rare feat in the company of Passepartout a Frenchman who is his servant. The various situations they encounter, elicit excitement and frustration in equal measure. This adventurous journey was a result of a challenge by members of the Reform club, “I’d like to see you do it in eighty days,” (Chapter 3, p10) this is a statement by Mr. Stuart A member of the Reform Club. Fogg is not one to turn down such a challenge and he accepts the bet and he sets out on the journey of his life.
The travelling duo have different characteristics. Fogg is a cold and logical man while on the other side, Passepartout is curious and very passionate about new experiences. Jules Vernes holds a Eurocentric view in regards to people from other parts of the world. For instance when the duo travel to India, Verne describes a procession of Brahmans as a group of “stupid fanatics”. As they sail past Papua an observation is made that “Papuans are in the lowest scale of humanity.” As they leave Asia a remark is made that, “Now they were beyond the fantastic countries of Japan and China and were fairly on their way to civilised places again.” This shows that they view the Asians as not being civilised. A remark is also made about Americans who are seen as being rash and stupid.
The protagonists experience certain encounters with people from other parts of the world. When the Sioux Indians attack a train in which they are travelling in and kidnap Passepartout, they view these Indians as being callous and dangerous enemies who attack without offering an explanation. This is further emphasised when it is seen to be unrealistic for the Sioux to be attacking a train this is in motion something that is unbelievable.
In this adventurous journey, there are other encounters with people that are passionate. For instance, Fogg meets a woman called Aouda and saves her from a marriage that she did not consent. This is very passionate of him because he runs all his affairs based on time. Consequently, Fogg’s journey, is a race against time. Moreover, there was a bet he needed to win and time was of the essence. Fogg remarks “yet twelve hours to spare” (Chapter 12, p. 64). Another interaction with other parts of the world when Fogg gets a change of heart from living a life of solitary where he had little care about other people viewed him to recognizing the need for human connections in form of friendship with Passepartout from France and love with Aouda in which case he agrees to marry her. In the case of Passepartout he gets off the train to save him yet he knew such a move could cost him the bet.
The descriptions of Verne bear certain teachings in regards to the European culture and Society in the 19th century. One such culture is that of initiation. When Fogg is initiated, he undergoes a change and an expansion of consciousness. Before initiation, a person is viewed to be alienated and ambiguous but later after the initiation, such an individual is viewed to be considerate, developed and single minded.
Imperialism is also a culture widely explored in the text. In the text, every land that Fogg travels to is either a British colony or a former colony of Britain. In the same light, such colonies are heavily influenced by English aspects such as trade, merchants and inventions. “Hong Kong seemed to him not unlike Bombay, Calcutta, and Singapore, since, like them, it betrayed everywhere the evidence of English supremacy” (Chapter 19, p. 95). As a result of this other aspects of imperialism arise such as the rivalry between the English and French who were all colonial masters. Verne is a French so he makes certain remarks in the text that are satirical such as stating that the British presence was pervasive. Britain is however viewed as a superior power since even time is recorded from the Greenwich England. The rivalry is further propelled by the Suez Canal that was built by the French who had the majority control over it but later it is taken over from them by the British since they saw it as an important pathway for trade as well as colonization.
The culture of exploitation is also reviewed in the text. “The British Crown exercises a real and despotic dominion over the larger portion of this vast country” (Chapter 10, p.46). Here Verne is referring to India where rich English and Military officers are moving towards so that they can exploit the country.
Science is widely explored in the 19th century in the text. In the text Verne makes a clear distinction between nominalization, measurement as well as domination in Britain. The British measuring and naming system is viewed to be civilized and orderly while the rest is viewed to be wild and insubordinate. As a result of this, much of the text is about the British Imperial miles rather than the metric system since the former is seen to be more authoritative. Science is also widely seen as metric to measure the political muscle of a nation. Passerpartout is astonished by English engineers at Aden, “where the English engineers were still at work, two thousand years after the engineers of Solomon” (Chapter 9, p. 45). This shows that power is as a result of science and this analogy compares the present strength of science as compared to that of the Biblical Solomon thus showing that there has been transformation which has seen a more sophisticated approach to science.
Another culture that is explored is that of ethnicity. For instance on the journey to Hong Kong they pass by the Andaman Islands where the narrator refers to the Papuans as “the Savage Papuans are in the lowest scale of humanity” (Chapter 16 p. 83). The same ethnic discrimination is mete on Indians and Native Americans using unkind words such as stupid fanatics. This shows the ethnic prejudice towards inhabitants who were not found in Europe and were seen to be inferior to the former. This further emphasis the fact that imperialism was viewed as a driving force towards civilization.
Verne, Jules, and George M. Towle. Around the World in 80 Days. 2017.