WEEK 4: Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days (II)

This is an open thread on the second half of Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days (1872). This thread will remain open until 9pm on Monday, 3 October.

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23 thoughts on “WEEK 4: Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days (II)

  1. So far, our discussions have focused on the novel’s content, rather than its form. This weekend, then, let’s talk about the narrator of Around the World in Eighty Days. How would you characterize the narrator of this novel? Are they a reliable narrator, for instance? Why or why not?

    Or, put differently: can we treat the narrator’s opinions of events as they unfold as if they are Verne’s own opinions? Are there clues, for instance, that Verne might be using his narrator to satirical effect? In sum, how does the narrator’s perspective shape our attitudes towards the events of the story? Try to provide specific examples that stood out to you, and feel free to cite passages from anywhere in the text.

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    1. Lorenzo Marcil

      I certainly think Verne’s narration is a tool for his own views, which definitely makes the narrator unreliable in some sense. The passage that stuck out to me is during he funeral procession for the rajah in the jungle. Verne describes these fakirs as “mindless fanatics” “covered in cross-shaped incisions from which blood was oozing” (62). Of course the European gentlemen interfere with the religious ceremony to rescue Mrs. Aouda, who would either die as part of the ceremony or “would be left to die in some corner like a mangy dog” (63). Verne paints the natives in a disfavorable light and puts Mrs. Aouda in distress because narratively it gives the characters reason to intervene, and this is supposed to make the audience become invested in the rescue. I believe that Verne is also using this example to comment on the way European Empires are disingenuous of native cultures. Europeans see the proceedings of other cultures and try to understand it within their own worldview. The expanding Europeans intervene in native affairs in order to civilize and protect them, either acting sincerely or using this as an excuse for profit. The Europeans do not stop to understand other cultures, but instead act on their own misguided impulses and occasionally desecrate sacred traditions. I do not advocate for ritualistic suicide or murder, but I do think expansion and globalization should try to understand other cultures instead of assimilate them. I have a feeling Verne would agree.

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    2. Maddy Robinson

      I believe that Verne’s narration is reliable, if not a little culturally biased. In the introduction to the novel, it says that “Verne was always careful, even pedantic, with regard to the accuracy of his facts” (xvii) and this rings true with his description of the events within Around the World in Eighty Days. For example, at the beginning of chapter 16 (86), the narrator describes The Rangoon with details of the mechanical workings of the ship (horsepower, weight, and relation to its parent company), and often does this with their other various modes of transportation, acting as not only a narrator but a sort of encyclopedia for unaware readers. The narrator’s factual precision is similar to Fogg’s, and we trust that both their mathematical calculations and worldly expertise is legitimate and trustworthy throughout the story.

      Verne shows bit of dry humour through his narration as well. For example, Passepartout, a French man, exclaims, “That’s the English for you! If only it was an American boat. We might go up in smoke, but at least we’d be travelling faster!” (98). Other differences are played for laughs as well: the narrator describes Salt Lake City as “the strange land of the Mormons” (159). While the differences between ‘westernized’ nations like France, Britain, and America are humourous, the differences between those of other cultures are displayed in a sometimes offensive light. Mrs Aouda is called “a charming woman, in the full European sense of the word” (74), and her skin is described as “white as a European’s” (62), leading her to appear more ‘civilized’ than the other people of India.

      While’s Verne’s narration is factually reliable, his writing towards other cultures strikes me as very openly biased.

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    3. Jason Kadar

      While the narrator of Around the World in Eighty Days is third person omnipresent it also seems as though Verne is a character himself in the novel. Verne paints British empire as a civilizing force. When talking about India the narrator mentions that, “[t]he British Crown exercises a real and despotic dominion over the larger portion of this vast country.” (pp. 54) When talking of Hong Kong, “the colonising genius of the English has created upon it an important city and an excellent port.” (pp.128). Furthermore, when talking about other non-colonized places Verne is quick to point out the savagery and uncivilized nature, “The steamer passed along near the shores, but the savage Papuans, who are in the lowest scale of humanity, but are not, as has been asserted, cannibals, did not make their appearance.” (pp.109). Verne also breaks the forth wall, “[t]he reader will remember that at five minutes past eight in the evening— about five and twenty hours after the arrival of the travellers in London.” (pp.275). By doing so Verne visibly places himself in the novel where previously he operated as a biased narrator.

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      1. Mollie Grill-Donovan

        I am glad you brought up the fourth wall break by the narrator because in my novel this line occurs on page 227 and reads, “[i]t will be remembered that at five past eight in the evening — about twenty-five hours since the travellers had got back to London.” This seems likely to be a difference in translation but such a difference drastically changes the interpretation of who the narrator represents. In your version the narrator is consciously addressing a reader, making it reasonable to assume that Verne is inserting himself as the narrator. In my version, the narrator is merely reiterating a fact of timing for the sake of the story, which is no different than what the narrator is doing for the rest of the story. I think it is rather interesting what a difference a simple change of translation can make and begs the question of how many more differences there are between our texts and could such differences affect how we both read the novel?

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    4. Jared K

      I believe within this text the narration takes on a biased role, in that it reads as if written by British novelists or newspapers recounting a recent adventure. The events within are not merely displayed as a series of actions instead Verne’s vocabulary and tone change in accordance to the scenarios. When speaking of English lands and colonies the novel describes them using large grandiose vocabulary. In contrast when speaking of the lands Fogg travels through not under British control Verne’s vocabulary becomes less flattering and darker, describing the free lands in India as under the control of “…ferocious rajahs…”(30) and the populace as “… a fanatical population, hardened in the most horrible practices of the Hindoo faith.”.I believe by painting the lens by which the reader views the world in this biased light, Verne attempts to increase the credence of his story as a retelling of actual events.

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    5. Samantha Hamilton

      I believe that Vern is using the narrartor as a tool to further develop the plot of the story. For instance, on page 61, the Hindu funeral procession is making its way through the forrest and the narrarator describes it as, “Monstrous chanting mingled with the sound of drums and symbols”, and their goddess Kali as, “a hideous statute…” (61). This chaotic and demonic description is followed on the next page by the characters describing their perception of the goddess as “ugly” and certainly the goddess of “death” (62). This narration paints a rather bleak picture of these individuals which is furthered by the comments made by characters of the story. Thus, I would say that the narrarator is unreliable because the he is viewing the world with a European lense, or in other words, Eurocentric worldview. However, Verne may have done this intentially because it coincides with Mr. Fogg’s character. For example, earlier on in the book when Mr. Fogg and Passepartout disembark from the Magnolia and board the steamer to India, Mr. Fogg sends Passepartout to grab supplies. The narrator comments that, “Absolutley nothing interested him” (45). Meanwhile, Passepartout is taking in the historical and religious monuments (45). Thus, perhaps Verne intentially made the narrarator close-minded just like Mr. Fogg. This would allow the reader to understand the adventure as Mr. Fogg would, a trip to accomplish rather than an experience of travel and adventure as it would be for Passepartout.

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      1. Rebecca Scott

        The interplay between Fogg’s and Passepartout’s opinions seems to be the middle ground that the omniscient narrator inhabits. Verne’s style presents both the extraordinary cultural sights and the precise scientific facts as simply a list of things that the travelers witness. The detail given to describing Bombay with its “magnificent library, the fortifications, the docks, the cotton market, the bazaars, the mosques, the synagogues, the Armenian churches and the splendid temple on Malabar Hill with its twin polygonal towers” (page 45) is meant to give the reader a sense of wonder, but presents these images quite detached from how the characters interact with them. I agree with your argument that the narrator is probably closer to emulating Fogg’s perspective on the journey rather than Passepartout’s. However, most of the complications and intrigue of the novel comes from Passepartout’s emotional responses to the journey, so when the narrator focuses more on his antics I’d say the narrating style gets less reliable in regards to the scientific physicality of the scene, but more reliable in describing how people are feeling at the time – thus reflecting the characters’ offhanded Eurocentric prejudices that were commonplace to Verne’s time.

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    6. Bryce Lanz

      Through the second portion of Around the World in Eighty Days Verne uses his narrator to illustrate a great number of points and draw his audience into the novel. The narration could easily be seen as being written for an initial upper class audience, and a distinctly French one with several lines throughout.

      During this passage the narration paints for us a picture of Fix and Passepartout as single-minded beings. The scene in the courtroom is a prime example of the bias in the narration as Fix is painted with a singular goal to arrest Fogg and is even put into a dark light as he is described as being “in the corner of the courtroom”(Pg 83) and the narrator describes to us the means that Fix is willing to use to his favour in the pursuit of Fogg.

      his same scene also has Passepartout blurt out about his shoes without thinking and the narrator is quite certain in indicating the displeasure of Fogg at his servant’s incompetence. The narrator even then worsens the gap between classes by having Passepartout thinking only about how he has ruined the voyage for Fogg, without the apparent capacity to think around the problem such as the posting of bail by Phileas.

      The comparison is stark when a reader looks back throughout the travels as Fogg is having intellectual conversations with the Club members in England and discussing the inaccuracy of news reporting with Sir Francis Cromaty when they reach the end of the railway in Kholby (Pg 54). Other examples are that Cromaty and Fogg are the ones who come up with the plan to save Aouda, in which Passepartout is only a pawn, and Passepartout’s lack of knowledge towards other cultures, though he is described as having several jobs that would have put him into contact with other cultures “a travelling singer, horse-rider in a circus, a trapeze artist and a tightrope walker” (Pg 5).

      After reading this portion of the narrative, could Verne have evoked with his novel with the same passion as Fogg overcomes each human obstacle, the unfinished railway, Fix’s meddling, and the class difference portrayed in Passepartout?

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  2. My Thanh Huynh

    After reading the second part of Verne’s, Around the World in 80 days, Verne brings life to technology such as the steamship, railways, etc. He develops a relationship between technology and people as we rely on it greatly. Through the narrator it seems that Verne is revealing to the reader that technology is great and all, but there are consequences to relying on it. On Page 53 when Foggs and Passepartout (more like Passepartout) seemed to be frustrated when their steamship fails them. The next course of action was to travel by elephant, which seemed to have worked greatly in their favor, as it got them to where they needed to be. In fact, this method of transportation is still used very widely across India, thus revealing how reliable this form of transportation is. These methods of travel are now a days considered nostalgic but still used in some parts of the world. Do you believe that Verne is trying to create a relationship or contrast between nature and technology? Do you think Verne is trying to tell us that technology is great, but nature will always pick up technologies slack? What pieces of evidence do you see in which nature does that? Did you find the different types of technology in this second part of the reading to be considered steampunk? If so, in your opinion, what makes it steampunk?

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  3. Ashley Dhillon

    While continuing to read the second half of around the world in 80 days, it seems like Verne connects technology to the characters in the story, by the ways that they are traveling throughout the second half of the novel. He connects technology and the characters by showing how they do rely on it to get across the world within the time frame that is given but at the same time there are obstacles that are faced when the reliance on this technology is provided. Also it shows that no matter what obstacle is provided the characters do find a way to get around this for example on page 81 when Fogg and Passepartout are taken to court because Passeparout had “violated a place sacred to the Hindu religion” which was when he didn’t take his shoes off before entering the temple, they were going to miss there train and Passeparout was worried they would not make timing due to the technology they were relying on. In the sense that they would do any means necessary, Fogg would spend his money anytime to get out of any situation by posting bail in this case. I do think Verne is trying to create this great relationship with nature and the technology by showing all the obstacles that Fogg and Passeparout do face and how they get out of the situation to make it to there train on time because of when they need to be done there journey. The technology that is used in the second part seems to be following the trend of steam punk as they are using steamships, trains, etc. Which would relate in terms of steam powered machinery compared to advanced technology. Something I wouldn’t consider steam punk is them flying to get across the world in the time. A question to be asked after reading the second part is would Fogg be able to make it around the world in 80 days if the technology that Verne presents wasn’t at his convince? What would have been other ways Verne could have gotten him out of his troubles?

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  4. Danielle Hillje

    The Narrator’s role in Establishing Genre

    From the outset of the first paragraph of Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days, the narrator exemplifies an almost robotic precision in the way in which he describes Mr. Phineas Fogg. For example, let us look at the first paragraph:

    “Mr. Phileas Fogg lived, in 1872, at No. 7, Saville Row, Burlington Gardens, the house in which Sheridan died in 1814. He was one of the most noticeable members of the Reform Club, though he seemed always to avoid attracting attention; an enigmatical personage, about whom little was known, except that he was a polished man of the world. People said that he resembled Byron—at least that his head was Byronic; but he was a bearded, tranquil Byron, who might live on a thousand years without growing old” (Ch 1 Jules Verne. “Around the World in Eighty Days.” iBooks).

    Outright, the audience learns that the novel is set in 1872, an apparently exact date especially when compared to “ballpark dates”, such as the late 19th century, or rounded off dates, such as 1870. We also learn about the history of Fogg’s residence, which may – or may not – have significant importance to the development of the character. We learn that he is a member or a elite “Reform club”, and that he does not like attracting attention. He has, also, been compared as “a bearded, tranquil Byron”. The narrator establishes a precise level of detail that creates a clear image of what Mr. Phineas Fogg is, and what he is not. The audience is not left to fill in many details about Fogg after the conclusion of the first chapter, because every aspect of his personality has been laid out concretely using direct descriptive language.

    Comparatively, looking at Steampunk Magazine’s definition of “steampunk”, we can see how the genre uses descriptive language to create exact images. Even in a broad definition of what steampunk is, the author elaborates with descriptive language and concrete examples. The “mad bombers” have “ink-stain[s]” on their cuffs, the women wield whips, and the “chimney sweeps” have “joined the circus” (5). Their descriptions create clear images of characters that do not even belong to any narrative, and yet they – by the exactitude of their descriptions – create an essentially “steampunk” style through the preciseness of their descriptions.

    Narrative detail appears to be a formal feature of “steampunk” texts. As we have discussed in class, Around the World in 80 Days is a proto-steampunk novel, but does Verne’s narrator in Around the World in 80 Days establish this descriptive “steampunk” style? And why might concrete descriptive language be important for the development of the genre?

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  5. Bailey Toth

    When i began reading “Around The World in 80 Days”, what struck me about Jules Verne’s style of writing was how personal he makes his third person point of view. I got the sense that rather than blankly showing us what’s happening in the story, Verne has a way of bringing the reader into the mind of the character speaking, as well as relating to us the urgency, passivity or wonder that a character might be feeling towards their travels. By showing us a more personal view, he brings us to care for the characters well being and even relates a feeling of sympathy or concern for a character as they are thrown into peril. Although some might disagree, I found Verne’s writing style to be very personal and at times, hilarious. Often i find that when an author switches perspectives throughout a story, it can get confusing and even distracting from the main plot. Was anyone else able to relate to the personal determination of the characters more easily because of his writing style? Also, did anyone think that maybe his writing style is a bit too stiff?

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  6. Barbara Baker

    the White Saviour Complex in Around the World in Eighty Days

    The role of Mrs. Aouda in the novel exemplified the white saviour trope, which seems to be at odds with some of the principles of steampunk. Here, a group of white British men save a foreign woman from the fate that the barbaric men in her culture have forced upon her (71). This woman is, of course, an exotic beauty; on page 74, a whole paragraph is devoted to categorizing her beautiful features. After saving her life, Mrs. Aouda displays unwavering gratitude to Mr. Fogg, “No doubt she was unaware of the depth of feeling that her saviour aroused in her and gratitude was still the only name she gave it, but without knowing there was more to it than that” (168). She goes so far as to suggest marrying him (221). He accepts the proposal and the journey is said to have been worthwhile as it led to their marriage (230). This follows the white saviour complex in that a non-white person is saved from moral peril by a white person who in turn becomes transformed through their act of rescue. Here, the impenetrable Mr. Fogg learns to openly love Mrs. Aouda. At the conclusion of the novel he exclaims, “Yes, truly, by everything that is sacred in the world, I love you and am wholly yours” (221). This trope is problematic in that it racializes morality with white people over non-white people. For instance, Indian people are described as barbaric (63).

    It is interesting to consider the presence of this trope when analyzing whether this novel can be considered steampunk. Of course, what this novel exemplifies is the irony of steampunk in that it seeks to create a new vision of the future using a time period that was fraught with racial inequality, among other social injustices. However, many aspects of steampunk that have been discussed in class would move away from such inequality. By working to move away from the typical modes of production steampunk seeks to move away from such problematic institutions as imperialism. Steampunk works to empower individuals by allowing them to become independent from such systems. This independence seems in contradiction to the role of dependent victim that a character such as Mrs. Aouda plays. With such racial issues appearing in the novel I am interested whether these issues can be reconciled to align the novel with the values of steampunk or not? How does steampunk use this period to create a new vision for the future when this period had many problematic aspects?

    (I found an interesting post defining the White Saviour Complex by Matthew W. Hughey on https://contexts.org/blog/the-whiteness-of-oscar-night/ for more information)

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  7. Jian Zhang

    Verne’s narration is written in a third person point of view, a majority in which the character Passepartout’s perspectives are revealed to us. It is by no coincidence that Verne and Passepartout are both French, which brings me to believe that the narration is of Verne’s culturally biased opinions. His narration of other characters through the perspectives of Passepartout, Fix, and Aouda are quite humorously biased, notably the descriptions of the very “American” Colonel Proctor. Curiously, Verne refuses to divulge perspectives of Phileas Fogg, the probability being that he wants to adhere to the mysteriousness and machine like behaviour of this character.

    Aside from characters, the portrayal of the westernized nations and especially of America reflect a very ethnocentric approach that were appropriate for the time of the novel. For example, the description of San Francisco “was no longer the legendary city of 1849 – a city of banditti, assassins, and incendiaries, who had flocked hither in crowds in pursuit of plunder; a paradise of outlaws, where they gambled with gold-dust, a revolver in one hand and a bowie knife in the other: it was now a great commercial emporium”. Throughout vividly biased descriptions of characters, places and nation cultures, Verne proves again and again that his personal opinions and perspectives are quite evidently reflected.

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  8. Oliver Kingsley

    Reading the latter half of Verne’s novel, I believe that the narration definitely has a certain style to it in order to achieve various outcomes. Whilst Verne does narrate from the third-person, he does vary in the amount of information that we, the reader, learn about each character.

    For instance, Passepartout is the closest character we have to the narrator. Throughout the tale, we are able to learn what he does, what he thinks, and how he reacts. Such passages about Passepartout as “It is easy to imagine what little effort he made to disguise his anger during this ordeal” (Verne, 100) are able to elicit what he is thinking and what he is doing.

    What makes this style unique is that when we think about the other protagonist of the novel, Phileas Fogg, much less information is given. Because the novel is in the third-person it is expected that we would get as much information about Fogg as we do from Passepartout, especially considering he is our story’s protagonist. Instead, we are given the descriptions of his actions and facial expressions, but lack the ability to go inside the mind of Fogg. I think that this is used by Verne to give Fogg a sense of mystery and also make us inclined to relate more towards Passepartout.

    What are your opinions on this topic?

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    1. Mark Taylor

      I’d agree that the narrator has a distinct purpose in shrouding Fogg’s inner thoughts.

      “…Phileas Fogg left Fix to his own business, went on board the Carnatic and there learnt, to the great joy of Mrs Aouda – and perhaps to his own, though he didn’t let it show – that the Frenchman Passepartout had in fact arrived in Yokohama the previous day.” (141)

      Not only does the narrator leave Fogg’s inner machinations a mystery, but also his outer ones. He is an unreadable man, and the lack of inner or outer emotion helps the narrator characterize him as this infallible, machine-like being. More importantly, however, this lack of information is used by the narrator to maintain the suspense throughout the novel. We do not know – by our lack of access to Mr. Fogg’s thoughts – whether or not he truly committed the crime that Fix believes he committed. We also are left wondering how exactly Fogg is going to overcome each obstacle he encounters, yet we feel that he will when each obstacle is met with an undisturbable, measured calmness.

      When we finally something disturbs this calm (Mrs Aouda’s confession of love) the glimpse of humanity we see within Mr. Fogg is all the more powerful through the lack of these traits throughout the rest of the novel.

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  9. I thoroughly enjoyed Fogg’s journey through the jungle with Passepartout and the Colonel. The elephant ride was definitely a highlight amongst the saving of Mrs. Aouda. Prior to reading those chapters I came across this video on Facebook of a functioning steampunk elephant which was all I could think of while reading the jungle scene.

    I hope you enjoy it as much as I did: https://www.facebook.com/thisisinsidertravel/videos/1698638920463270/

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  10. Kelsey Jacobi

    The description of the Sioux attack on the train in Chapter 29 links England and America’s civilization and colonization with progress that brings technology. During the train attack, the Sioux are described with degrading similes: “like circus clowns jumping on to galloping horses,” “like enraged monkeys,” or being “squashed like worms” (181). The Sioux likely attack the train because they feel their territory and way of life has been encroached. Yet, ironically right before the attack, Fogg and Colonel Proctor, “two gentlemen,” were preparing “to settle a matter of honour” with a dual over an insult (180), and the passengers were willing to move from the train car to allow such violence. The juxtaposing of the violence deemed honourable between ‘civilized’ gentlemen with the violence of the Sioux portrayed as wild and bestial can represent a criticism of the narrator (or Verne) of colonization and the technology that comes with it to progress civilization; the technology, here the train, destroys anything ‘uncivilized’ in its way (the Sioux that fall on the train tracks) while it moves the ‘civilized’ along (allowing an honourable dual of gentlemen in the train car). In short, technology allows the colonizer to carry destruction (or progress, depending on perspective) even further, and thus further deteriorates the colonized. Yet, on the other hand, the novel goes into great depth to describe the impressive feat of the American railway built through difficult and diverse landscape with hostile peoples. Do you think this passage shows a criticism of progress with technology, or does it applaud how technological progress can bring civilization even in the wild American frontier with hostile indigenous peoples?

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  11. Tiana Charlebois

    In the second part of the book, it does seem that Verne has his opinion thrown into the characters even though he does narrate in third person. The most opinionated part I found was the part about the suttee. Verne has the characters describe it as a barbaric custom (63), and the area where they are performed are savage parts (63). He also describes the members involved in the suttee as putting themselves into a furious frenzy (62), and then proceeds with describing the followers as fanatics (62). All of these terms together can form an opinion about a suttee as an act that is wild, extreme, and brutal. While this description can be true, it is an opinion of Verne as some places believe the act was of value to society based on their culture. The opinion Verne imposes on the reader in this part could skew their opinion of the events. Do you think that if the writer was of a different cultural background, they would describe certain events from the book in a modified way?

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    1. I believe that any kind of ritual can be understood by a reader, if the right standpoint is presented by the narrator. If Verne, or any other author, were to create a character who was a member, easy for the reader to associate with up until the point of the suttee, then the reader would be able to sympathize and understand when the newly-created character begins to convince the reader that the suttee is the only moral option.

      However, part of what convinces the reader that the suttee is so amoral, is the fact that the sacrifice is a captive, forced to marry, and then forced to die with her unwanted husband. In most cultures today, consent is a large staple; hence, why rape and theft are both such notorious crimes, because they are both acts of taking something without the other person’s consent.

      So, when Phileas Fogg’s parsee guide reveals to them that the drugged victim is not a willing sacrifice, Fogg immediately decides that the life of an innocent is far more valuable than his pride in winning a bet.

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  12. Thao Tran

    I thought the narration was an excellent indication of how well traveled Verne must have been with the way he succinctly described the various locations that the characters travel through. It put emphasis on how Phileas Fogg is very goal oriented throughout his travel, which helps maintain his air of mystery and aloofness. Verne puts a lot of emphasis on the deadline, and doesn’t have time to focus on all the lush details of each destination, but his razor sharp focus still notices with precision, all the unique facets that make the current location for his characters unique.

    I do think the narration, or rather Verne, does have a bias against the reliability of written communication during that time. When the characters are stopped in the hamlet of Kholby, rather than their projected destination of Allahabad. Upon being questioned about the accuracy of the newspapers, they’re told rather flippantly, “What can I say, sir? The newspapers are wrong.” (54) As though this is a very common occurrence. It’s further emphasized through Fix, and his desperation to get an arrest warrant in time from London to seize Fogg in Hong Kong, his last chance to capture Fogg within British occupied territory. (109)

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  13. Taylor McDonald

    I believe that the narrator in Around the World in 80 Days is an outlet for Verne to express his own views and opinions and therefore the narrator can be considered unreliable. For example on page 62 when Fogg and Passepartout come across the fakir funeral procession the fakirs are referred to as “mindless fanatics” and their customs are called barbaric. Although these views would have been held by the majority of people at the time Verne was writing the novel it still shows that he was narrating the story from his worldview.
    The way we as readers interpret what we read is directly influenced by the way the narrator describes the events in the novel. Verne brings his own view of the world into Around the World in 80 Days and because of that we can help but to see the events that transpire from the same perspective.

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