The journey around the world in the challenged eighty days - This is the main theme of the novel and connected to it, is the main character, the hero of the story. Phileas Fogg is challenged by fellow whist players as to whether he can complete a journey around the world in the short span of eighty days. Fogg is extremely excited to take up this challenge, as he believes that if one is precise and efficient enough can make this journey possible. So he takes up the task and starts a hurried journey around the world. He has many ups and downs in this strenuous journey but he has a never say die attitude that sees him through. Entwined with the story of his travels is the one character who proves to be an obstacle once too often. He is the detective Fix and he suspects that, Fogg is a bank robber and that the hurried travel from one place to another is just a means of covering up the crime. So apart from natural hurdles and obstacles that Fogg has to face, he has the further machinations of detective Fix to circumvent. What is surprising is that Fogg does not suspect Fix and never smells a rat. In fact, Fogg helps Fix at more than one occasion.
During the journey the focus of the author remains Fogg, his companions and their experiences. While the places that they pass through are described briefly they are not given any outstanding reference. They just form the background to the activities of the hero Fogg with his insurmountable, incorrigible will.
The other minor themes in the novel too are entwined with this major theme of the travels around the world. The fact is that Fogg finds the love of his life-Aouda only because of this trip. At the end, Verne seems to be putting across a moral lesson-that challenges are not as important as finding true, abiding love and affection. Verne says that the heroic Fogg would not have attained as much from worldly accomplishments, as he does from finding lasting love with the charming Aouda.
Fogg does win the challenge but only after an interesting episode. He himself thinks that he has reached a little late and has lost. But he and his group are unaware that they have actually reached a whole day earlier. Fortunately for them, even after they have given up, by a stroke of luck Fogg, Passepartout and Aouda find out that they still have a few minutes to reach the Reform Club and Fogg does! We are all glad that Fogg is the winner at the end.
The suspicion that Fogg might be the bank robber - Verne is an intelligent writer, who must have known how to sustain the reader’s interest. Knowing that Fogg’s hurried journey around the world would not be interesting enough without entwined sub themes Verne adds a couple of sub themes, a few being Passepartout’s buffoonery, Aouda’s love and Fix’s suspicion that Fogg is a bank robber. The narrator relates how a well-dressed gentleman was responsible for a huge robbery at the Bank of England. If we combine that fact with the knowledge of Fogg’s eccentricities, even we as readers get a little curious as to whether Fogg could be a robber. After all Fogg could have readily accepted the challenge merely because it gave him a chance to flee London and to set out on a wild journey that would make him untraceable. This suspicion keeps us interested too, though we do realize that Fogg is an honorable man and would not commit such an attack. What Verne does manage to do is to create a mysterious aura around Fogg. We learn that he has been a sailor too in the way that he handles the ship to Liverpool.
Fix follows Fogg through the world after being completely convinced that the latter is the culprit. It is Fix who delays the journey innumerable times. These delays are challenges to Fogg who deals with them brilliantly, adding further interest value to the narrative.
When Fix finally manages to arrest Fogg he finds out that his conviction was completely wrong. Fogg is innocent and is so angry that he gives Fix an amazing blow on his face. Later, Fogg feels sorry for Fix’s unfortunate luck and gives him some money. The manner in which Fogg deals with Fix is truly gentleman like.
Fogg’s development of character - Fogg is the intelligent and precise man who is particular about times and habits, to the extent of being eccentric. He likes his shaving water at a particular temperature and he follows a strict routine every day, without fail. Initially, he comes across as completely unemotional and pragmatic. He seems incapable of love, though he does always seem large hearted. Throughout the journey his sole focus is to jump from train to ship and ship to train, in order to complete his travel around the world. In his spare time, he plays whist instead of sight seeing. And while these qualities might make him seem completely heartless, he is not.
It is he who suggests that their group try and save the Indian princess. After they are successful, Aouda is extreme in her gratitude and eventually falls in love with him. For a long time, he continues to be undemonstrative and unresponsive. Aouda is not sure of his affections for her. It is only in London that he confesses his love for her and they decide to marry. Verne highlights that winning the challenge is not as important for Fogg as to win the love of Aouda. The last statement of Fogg truly reflects the change in this practical man’s view of life. He tells Passepartout that they might have gone round the world in seventy eight days but adds further that, "But if I had not gone through India I should not have saved Aouda, she would not have been my wife and after saying this he closes the door. It is obvious that he is very happy with Aouda and the development in his character is that his heart is now overflowing with love, much more than before. Even Verne adds that after Fogg’s long travels, the only thing that he had gained was "...a charming woman, who unlikely as it is may appear, made him the happiest of men! And forsooth, who would not go round the world for less?" Fogg’s development in character is a positive one and one that can only be brought about by love.
Passepartout’s comic behavior - Verne has provided for comic relief in this novel of adventure and one of the sources is Passepartout. He is Fogg’s valet and is quite the opposite of his precise master. Passepartout tends towards carelessness and is funny at many occasions. He gets his master into trouble often because of his casualness. When he walks into a pagoda at Malabar Hill with his shoes on he commits a serious crime and is sued by the Indian priests later.
Fogg gets intoxicated with opium and is unable to inform his master that their ship would be leaving early. Fogg misses this particular ship as a result. Then, in Yokohama Passepartout takes up work as a Japanese longnose entertainer. He has the bohemian, wild blood that makes him a nomad who has visited many countries. It is for rest and stability sake that he joins Fogg as valet, little knowing that his master will take up a fast paced journey around the world.
Passepartout is also brave. It is his unique idea at the end that saves Aouda and he fights the Sioux bravely. On the whole, he is loyal to his master and is the provider of much needed lighthearted moments.
In fact after Fogg, it is only Passepartout’s character that is given so much attention. Passepartout becomes close and dear to the reader, as much as he is to Fogg and Aouda. The only thing that we might grudge against him is that trusts Fix for too long and should have taken up some action against him.
Fogg and Aouda’s love - When Fogg and his group are traveling through India, they come across a princess, who is being forced to commit ‘suttee’ (suicide) for the sake of her dead husband. It is quite uncharacteristic of Fogg to get involved in others’ affairs but he reiterates that he has some time to spare, which can be used in an effort to save the princess Aouda. The others agree to Fogg’s idea and it is Passepartout who comes up with the winning trick that makes their effort successful. When Aouda comes to her senses, after the effect of opium has worn away she expresses her extreme gratefulness to her saviors. But the reader notices later that Aouda’s gratitude is combined with deep affection in the case of Fogg. She starts loving him for his nobility and his courage. Moreover, he is a handsome man. While Fogg takes utmost care of Aouda one does not know whether it is out of love, or merely for duty’s sake. He is extremely careful with her and is concerned about her safety. Passepartout can recognize Aouda’s affection for Fogg but he too is not sure whether Fogg would reciprocate. The fact is that Fogg does have feelings for Aouda but he places his duty above his love.
It is only at the end of their journey, at London that he confesses his love for her and they decide to get married. It is their decision to marry that enables Fogg to win the bet. For it is through the priest that they learn that they had actually reached London a whole day earlier. Fogg rushes to the Reform Club and is just in time for winning the challenge. Later, Verne underlines the fact that attaining Aouda’s love was more important than winning a challenge.
The sub theme of Fogg and Aouda’s love adds romantic interest to the story. And, we learn the lesson that love conquers all and that it must be placed higher than material attainments.
Various bets on Fogg’s journey around the world - The challenge between the whist players and Fogg captures the imagination of English folk. The report of the wager was first circulated among the members of the Reform Club. The excitement then passed from the club to the papers through the reporters and papers communicated it to London and the whole of the United Kingdom. This ‘question of a journey around the world’ was commented, discussed, analyzed as keenly and passionately as if it had been a case of a new Alabama Claim. Some sided with Fogg but the great majority, declared against him.
A great many articles were written about this topic and they in turn influenced the performance of Fogg shares. During the first days after the gentleman’s departure, important transactions were started on the chances of his enterprise. The English betters were a cleverer class than gamblers. Apart from Reform Club members, a great majority of the public joined in. Fogg was registered in a sort of studbook like a racehorse. He was also converted into stock, which was at once quoted on 'Change. ‘Fogg’ was asked for and offered at par or at a premium and enormous business was done. But five days after his departure, after the publication of the article in the Royal Geographical Society’ Report ‘Fogg’ scrip declined. It was offered in bundles. At first people accepted five to one, then ten and then not less than twenty fifty, a hundred. One single supporter remained faithful to him: an old paralytic, Lord Albermale. Transactions began to dwindle away and they only revived when the suspicion that Fogg was a robber was cleared.
When the real thief was arrested all those who had made bets for or against him and had already forgotten the case came forward again as if by magic. All the old transactions became valid again all engagements binding and it should be said that the people’s revived keenness resulted in many a new bet. Fogg’s name was again at a premium on 'Change. Betting again took place on a larger scale than before.
This sub theme of the bets on Fogg adds a realistic touch to the story. After all, England is and was a gambler's paradise. And Fogg’s challenge was such as to inspire the interest of many.
Depiction of places that Fogg passes through - No story can be narrated without a fitting background. In this story, the background involves the entire world and the author has used it brilliantly without overemphasizing it. While the focus of the narrative remains Fogg’s attempt to complete the journey around the world, Verne manages to describe the places that the former passes through in a short and eloquent manner. He describes the places without digging into details and that is what maintains our interest. We manage to understand the essence of each location that Fogg passes through-be it-Suez, Bombay, Calcutta, Hong Kong, Yokohama, San Francisco, New York or Liverpool. Indeed, Verne must have widely traveled as well as read, himself to be able to describe so many places truthfully. Verne does tell us how Fogg is not interested in sightseeing and would rather play whist. At the same time, he knows a lot about each place and we suspect that he had been a sailor before he got down to settling in London. Fogg too shares the same mysterious envelope that Captain Nemo, another of Verne’s characters had.
The manner in which Verne describes these places is very delicately entwined with the hero’s actions and experiences. Verne inserts these beautifully worded paragraphs amidst narrative details, so they do not impose on story but seem to be an integral part of the plot.
Without the description of these places, the book would have been incomplete. Through them, the reader gets the impression of an epic like quality.