Study Guide

Around the World in Eighty Days Themes

  • Respect and Reputation

    Ever wonder what makes the perfect gentleman? Opening car doors for ladies, saving puppies trapped in the rain, wearing a tux with an impeccably tied bow tie? In Jules Verne's time (the mid-to-late 1800s) if you wanted to be considered a gentleman you had to have a few things: money, a title, a good reputation, and a bit of real estate. There's more, but Shmoop's giving you the short-short version.

    Phileas Fogg is a gentleman—mind blowing, we know—and throughout Around the World in Eighty Days, we see him live up to the reputation of a gentleman while also doing some things that might tarnish that image. He pulls through with his reputation intact thanks to being rich, handsome, intelligent, well-mannered, punctual, and determined.

    Fogg isn't the only one wowing on the respect and reputation front, and as a servant, Passepartout is expected to behave with respect, though there's no guarantee he'll be given respect in return. So it went when you were lower on the social ladder in Victorian times.

    Questions About Respect and Reputation

    1. How are reputations born and raised in this book? What is Phileas Fogg's reputation and how does he preserve it? How about Passepartout's?
    2. Should a gentleman be stalwart, brave, and unemotional—or is there room for some sap and feelings? Give evidence from the text to support your answer.
    3. How do Passepartout and Detective Fix earn the respect of Phileas Fogg?
    4. According to this book, what kind of life should a gentleman lead?

    Chew on This

    Phileas Fogg is a gentleman because he has money and connections in high places.

    Violence is only one way that honor can be restored.

  • Money

    In Around the World in Eighty Days, Phileas Fogg has a lot of money. Verne makes good and sure we know this, and he also takes great pains to make it crystal clear that Passepartout is not rolling in dough. Still, who is the character to really enjoy his trip around the world? It's certainly not Phileas Fogg, who uses money like toilet paper—he doesn't even get off the train or the boat half the time. It's Passepartout who seems to understand that money may not buy you happiness.

    To be fair, Phileas doesn't just use money to make life comfy for himself. He's incredibly generous. He pays people what their time or inconvenience is worth and he's a pretty good gift-giver. Just ask the Parsee guide who gets an elephant after helping rescue Aouda and delivering the group safely through the Indian jungle. Fogg splits the earnings from winning the around the world bet with Passepartout (who clearly deserves it) but also with Detective Fix (who's recently had him arrested). We think Phileas does just fine with knowing exactly how to spend his money for the right reasons. Now if only he'd donate just a bit to Shmoop…

    Questions About Money

    1. In order to travel the world, does a person need a lot of money? Use examples from the book to support your argument.
    2. Can money really buy happiness? Which characters prove this?
    3. What kinds of actions are expected of people who have a lot of money? How do they compare to those who don't have as much money?
    4. Does having money make life easier or harder in Around the World in Eighty Days?

    Chew on This

    Phileas Fogg is able to accomplish his trip around the world only because he is rich.

    Love for poor people is different than love for rich people.

  • Exploration

    Jules Verne offers us some serious wanderlust in Around the World in Eighty Days. He provides an amazing backdrop of the world as Phileas Fogg zips through various countries on his quest for global conquest in a time crunch. While this gives us a serious case of wanderlust, perhaps the most interesting thing is that a stuffy British introvert would accept a wager that takes him around the world in the first place. Things are bound to get messy in Phileas Fogg's perfectly manicured life by taking on a challenge like that. We're thinking that ol' Phileas has a bit more of the adventure bug in him than he'd like to admit.

    Questions About Exploration

    1. What does exploration mean for Passepartout? He only wanted to settle down and serve a guy. Why does fate deal him another hazardous journey?
    2. Does Phileas Fogg have a taste for the adventurous side of life, even though he'd like us to think otherwise? How come he never leaves his darn hotel room?
    3. Why does Phileas Fogg even bother accepting the around the world wager? He has money, a servant, a mansion—what more could he need?

    Chew on This

    This book argues that life itself is an adventure that can't be avoided, calculated, sworn off, or foreseen.

    Phileas Fogg's hard-core gambling problem leads him to accept a crazy bet to go around the world.

  • Time

    Phileas Fogg's life depends on time. He's all about punctuality, and his adventure's success depends upon being in the right place at the right time—and the minutes are ticking away. Throughout Around the World in Eighty Days, things get even more wild and crazy as time runs out for Fogg and company. We start to wonder if time is really on his side, as he so often assumes, or if the bet is going to end up becoming the biggest time-out of his life. (We've totally got more sayings about time coming up, in case you were wondering.) After all, if Phileas doesn't reach London in time, it's game over.

    Questions About Time

    1. What does Phileas Fogg have time to do? What doesn't he have time to do? What does this reveal about his character? How about for Passepartout?
    2. Which characters use their time wisely? Which don't? How can you tell? What are the stakes?
    3. How does time affect the plot of the story? Be specific and give evidence from the text.

    Chew on This

    A gentleman with money has time for an adventure.

    The purpose of time is not to keep track of it.

  • Happiness

    Is Phileas Fogg a happy person? He says he is. He's happy going to his club, reading the newspaper, and having his servant set out his clothes; he's happy not being bothered by anyone or anything.

    Shmoop calls shenanigans.

    No one can be happy doing that—it's so boring. Maybe that's why secretly, deep down, Phileas is "happy" to be going on an adventure. It certainly didn't take him long to accept a wacko wager that involves spending his entire fortune speeding around the world.

    Maybe we're just a bunch of optimists looking at this whole thing through rose-colored glasses, but we're happy Phileas has found some friends and is having a good time rescuing, dueling, and being generally courageous. Could there be a small fire of happiness burning in that deeply buried beating thing Phileas calls a heart? We bet you a game of whist that there is.

    Phileas Fogg gets what he's looking for at the end of Around the World in Eighty Days, and it's not another wad of banknotes. Through all the adventures and misadventures, he slowly understands that there are people out there he can count on and who count on him in return. It's sort of a warm, fuzzy feeling, though he'd never let that feeling show.

    Questions About Happiness

    1. How does the theme of happiness tie into all the other themes in the book?
    2. Do the things required for being a gentleman secure happiness? Why or why not? Back your claim up with evidence from the text.
    3. Does money really buy happiness? Why or why not? Use examples from the book to prove your point.
    4. Can happiness exist between people who are extremely different? Pick two characters from the book to make your case.

    Chew on This

    Money can't buy happiness in this book.

    Money can totally buy happiness in this book.

  • Chance

    It's hard to resist a friendly bet sometimes, right? This is how we've found ourselves in swimming pools in January and five dollars richer from time to time. So when Phileas Fogg accepts the bet to go around the world, we totally get it. We've stuffed whole donuts in our faces just to prove we could, worn our clothes backwards, and even eaten worms to win a bet—all for the jingle of cold, hard cash… and to prove we're adventurous, brave, and really cool.

    In Around the World in Eighty Days, it's a fact that Phileas Fogg loves to gamble. But it isn't a game of whist or even his decision to circle the globe that's Fogg's biggest risk—nope, it's taking chances on some personal relationships. Phileas gambles on using his time to do the right thing, like saving his friends, paying people for their time, and traveling by means of non-traditional conveyance. And in the end, it's these chances that reward Phileas most.

    Questions About Chance

    1. What is the biggest risk Phileas takes? Why is this the biggest one? What are the stakes? What does this reveal about Phileas as a character?
    2. Is the success of the adventure around the world ultimately due to chance or planning? Why? Give evidence from the book to support your answer.
    3. Who is the riskiest character in this book and why?

    Chew on This

    Aouda takes the biggest risks of any character in the book.

    Phileas's success in his adventure is entirely due to chance.