Summary of Chapter Fourteen: “In which Phileas Fogg descends the whole length of the beautiful valley of the Ganges without ever thinking of seeing it”
Passepartout is delighted with his success, and his master is happy with him. He is the hero of the hour. The Indian woman is still doped up and unconscious. She is carried for many hours through the jungle before she can be roused. Sir Francis says she is in danger if she remains in India.
In Allahabad they resume the train for Calcutta. They will be able to make the steamer leaving Calcutta on October 25th for Hong Kong. Passepartout goes out to buy the princess European clothes. As Aouda recovers consciousness, she is praised by the narrator as beautiful and of a soft, sweet nature. She speaks perfect English. Fogg gives the elephant Kiouni to the guide. Kiouni lifts Passepartout in his trunk as farewell.
Sir Francis accompanies them as far as Benares and explains to the princess how she was rescued. She thanks them all with great emotion and fear, and Fogg, understanding how the princess feels, offers to take her with them to Hong Kong, an English city. At Benares, the brigadier general leaves them, with hope for success on their journey.
The train passes through the valley of the Ganges, with jungles and mountains visible, elephants in the sacred river, and Indians doing their rites in the water. When Fogg reaches Calcutta, he is exactly on schedule, neither ahead nor behind.
Commentary on Chapter Fourteen
This chapter gives a brief tour of chief landmarks of India but in a way to show how civilization (symbolized by the train) has tamed India’s wildness. Legends are recounted, as for instance, Allahabad being built at the junction of the Ganges and Jumna, the holy rivers spoken of in the ancient epic, Ramayana. Once again, Passepartout looks at the wonders around him, while Fogg returns to his calculations.
The narrator juxtaposes ancient and modern India in his comments. The princess Aouda is as beautiful as the queen in a poem by Ucaf Uddaul, the famous poet-king who speaks of his lady’s “shining tresses” and “great clear eyes” (p. 72). Yet Aouda is also praised for being light-skinned and European and a perfect English speaker. The narrator speaks of Benares as the Athens of India. He ponders the Hindu deities Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma and wonders what they would think of steamers on the Ganges.
The rest of the tour of India interweaves its ancient beauty with European conquest—the tomb of Lord Cornwallis and the city of Monghir, a manufacturing town with iron foundries and black smoke, like Birmingham. Finally, not even wild animals in the jungle can compete with the train and run away. So far Fogg has shown industrial man as superior to the ancient world and nature, and above all, to time. Fogg is in control.
Verne, like most westerners of his time, thought that technological progress would transform the world for better, though surely, Verne is satirical in praising Monghir as another Birmingham, England, with its industrial pollution.