The most important theme in this novel is time. Fogg's wager is a race against time, and his adventures illustrate repeatedly that time is fickle, and either works for or against them. In many cases, time foils their plans, when the delays build up and ships and trains leave without them. In the end, though, time turns out to be what wins Fogg his bet, since they gained a day when crossing the International Date Line. The ultimate message is that no one can control time; time will work the way it wants to work, and humans are at its mercy.
Written in the 19th century at the height of British colonization, this novel rings with themes of imperialism and Western influence on the world. Fix is able to chase Fogg for so long precisely because so many of the territories he ventures into are British-owned. Places like India and Hong Kong hugely display the effects of colonization; mixed in with native cultures and customs are traces of English influence. Today, one country having this sort of control over the world seems impossible—then, though, it was taken as normal.
Before his journey around the world, Fogg lived a solitary life. He closed himself off to others and cared little about the way he was perceived by other people. By the end of the trip, though, he recognizes the importance of human connections, both in the form of love, with Aouda, and friendship and loyalty, with Passepartout. Above all, this new understanding and appreciation is the greatest thing he has gained from this trip.
When Fogg resigns himself to his goal of making it around the world in 80 days, he continues on despite numerous obstacles that stand in his way. He is constantly calm, cool, and collected as he strives to accomplish what he set out to do. But Fogg is not the only character that displays strong perseverance. Despite his misguided goals, Detective Fix also perseveres in his attempt to do what he believes is right: arrest Fogg as an alleged bank robber. Despite their contrasting goals, both protagonist and antagonist display admirable dedication.
Though he has the opportunity to double his fortune, Fogg's motivation to embark on such a crazy adventure has little to do with the money. Instead, he wants to preserve his honor and prove his worth to the men of the Reform Club, to show that he can do what he sets out to do. Fogg spends nearly all of his money along the way, showing that riches are not what he is truly out for. For Phileas Fogg, honor is more important than money.
Throughout the entire trip, Fogg and his group encounter various obstacles standing in their way. These challenges allow them to use their quick thinking to come up with innovative solutions to even the most complicated of problems, relaying the message that no problem is unsolvable. It is not only Fogg who shows his clever wit in coming up with solutions; Passepartout, too, shows his ingenuity in multiple situations, like when saving Aouda and stopping the train during the Sioux attack.
Caught up in the fast-paced excitement of the journey, it is often easy for readers to forget to question the morality of some of the decisions Fogg makes in order to achieve his goal. The most notable example of this is after leaving New York, when he ties up the trade vessel's captain in order to steer the ship where he wants it to go. Because Fogg has money, he is able to get himself out of this sticky situation without repercussions. However, this does not absolve the immorality of the act in the first place. Is it okay to resort to immoral actions as a means to an end, or should Fogg have tried to make moral decisions along the way?
Around the World in 80 Days Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Around the World in 80 Days is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.