Summary of Chapter Sixteen: “In which Fix does not seem to understand in the least what is said to him”
The Rangoon on which the group sails to Hong Kong is a steamer as fast as the Mongolia but not so luxurious. The journey will take 10 to 12 days. Aouda becomes more grateful to her protector, Mr. Fogg, and he is attentive to her comfort. He spends much time talking to her, with great civility. Aouda does not know how to interpret his behavior, which is like that of an automaton.
She tells him her history. She comes from the Parsee race, rich cotton merchants. A relative of hers had been made a baronet by the English government, and it was his cousin who lived in Hong Kong that she hopes will take her in.
Detective Fix is hiding on board, hoping the arrest warrant will reach him at Hong Kong. If he doesn’t make the arrest there, Fogg will be out of English territory. He decides to tell Passepartout the truth about his master to get him as an ally. But he has to be careful or the servant would tell his master about Fix. Fix is confused about the presence of the woman.
The day before they reach Singapore, Fix meets Passepartout on deck and learns the history of Aouda and all that happened to the party since he saw them. Fix pretends not to know about the arrest and court appearance. They have a drink together.
Commentary on Chapter Sixteen
It looks as though there could be some romantic attachment blossoming between Aouda and Fogg, but he gives no evidence of it other than spending long periods of conversation with her. The narrator mentions that her eyes are like sacred lakes, but Fogg does not seem to want to throw himself in.
As before, the narrator explains the power of steamships. The Rangoon is made of iron and weighs seventeen hundred and seventy tons and has engines of 400 horsepower. It has to cover 3500 miles to Hong Kong in ten days. These are impressive figures if one contrasts how many days it would take a ship rigged with sails, going only by wind power.
Once again, there is the contrast of the modern ship with the primitive lands they see—the “savage Papuans” of the Andaman islands in the Bay of Bengal, for instance, “are in the lowest scale of humanity” (p. 83).
Fix continues his plot, this time dragging the innocent Passepartout into a plan against his master.