Summary of Chapter Ten: “In which Passepartout is only too glad to get off with the loss of his shoes”
The narrator gives an introduction to the country of India, including its population of one hundred eighty million souls, over whom the British exercise “a real and despotic dominion” (p. 46). Yet part of the interior of India remains free under the control of fierce rajahs. The country is constantly changing, the narrator warns. It was once difficult and dangerous to travel the roads of India, but now the Great Indian Peninsula Railway permits travel from Bombay to Calcutta in three days.
In Bombay while waiting for the train, Passepartout goes on some errands for his master. The servant is dazzled by the sight of forts and mosques, a pagoda, and Armenian churches, but the master, unimpressed, waits at the railway station, having dinner.
Fix goes to the Bombay police office to see if the arrest warrant is there; it is not, so he tries to get the Bombay office to issue a warrant, but they say it must come from London.
Passepartout realizes that they are really going on from Bombay and begins to understand the bet to go around the world is in earnest. He purchases some clothing and then indulges in sightseeing. He sees all nationalities again as before—Europeans, Persians, Parsees. The wealthy Parsees are the merchants of Bombay, and they are in a religious procession with dancing girls in gauze. Passepartout follows them and tries to enter a religious temple with his shoes on. He thus doubly violates their traditions, for he is not allowed in their temple, and certainly not in his shoes. The British policy is to punish those westerners who desecrate native temples, but Passepartout is innocently enjoying himself and does not know the consequences.
Three priests angrily tear off his shoes and chase him out of the temple. A few moments before the train leaves the Bombay station, Passepartout shows up apologetically to his master without shoes explaining his adventure in the temple. Fix is hiding nearby, hearing the servant’s confession and decides to use it against Fogg, a way to have him detained, for his servant broke the law. Just at that moment the train Passepartout out of sight with Fogg and Passepartout on it.
Commentary on Chapter 10
Passepartout demonstrates the first of many spontaneous mistakes on the journey that will sabotage his master’s mission. Fogg, though calculating and precise himself, always forgives the servant, adding to Passepartout’s guilt. He knows the servant sincerely wishes to be helpful.
Fogg is like the British government who occupies the exotic country of India; he is indifferent to its beauty or novelty, seeing only what is useful to him. He is a utilitarian with one focus. There is a bit of comedy when he eats dinner at the railway station and orders rabbit. The landlord swears it is rabbit from the jungle, but Fogg questions whether the rabbit could actually be a cat instead and remarks that cats were once sacred in this land.
Verne gives a snapshot of typical European interactions with the Indians. The Indian landlord tries to cheat the English when possible. The clumsy Passepartout misunderstands the religious customs of another culture. This is a mixture of slapstick, satire, and travel writing, giving Europeans a glimpse of foreign places and their strange ways.
The other comic figure is Fix, who like a cartoon villain, is always cooking up some plot against his adversary that inevitably blows up in his own face.