Summary of Chapter Nineteen: “In which Passepartout takes a too great interest in his master, and what comes of it”
Passepartout wanders around in Hong Kong looking at the Chinese, Japanese, and Europeans on the street. Every city in the world seems to be populated with mixed cultures. Hong Kong is an English port and everywhere is “the evidence of English supremacy” (p. 95).
He finds Fix on the quay and asks if he is going with them to America, to which the detective answers, yes. They go into the steamer office to purchase tickets, but the clerk tells him that the Carnatic is going to leave that evening and not the next morning. On the way to tell his master the good news, he is persuaded by Fix to have a drink first. In the tavern, they see people lying around, for it is also an opium den.
It is here that Fix desperately tells Passepartout everything, hoping to gain his help in arresting Fogg. Passepartout at first thinks Fix is part of a conspiracy of the Reform Club members to delay Fogg so they can win the bet. When Fix finds out Passepartout’s mistake, and that Fogg does not know about him, he reveals to Passepartout he is from Scotland Yard pursuing Fogg for robbing the Bank of England. The servant does not believe Fogg is guilty and mentions his “generosity and goodness” (p. 101). Fix then gives Passepartout a drink with opium in it, and he falls unconscious to the floor. Fix triumphantly announces that Fogg will never hear of the Carnatic’s early departure now.
Commentary on Chapter Nineteen
Passepartout has erred in not telling his master about Fix, and this will have grave consequences. It is not quite clear why he does not. He thinks Fogg will be offended or distracted. The servant also errs in having a friendly drink with a man he knows to be a spy instead of rushing back to tell Fogg of the new schedule. Yet when offered part of the reward money by Fix, Passepartout says he will never betray his master.
Passepartout’s main purpose seems to be to complicate the plot by his well meaning but careless actions. Unlike Fogg, he is easily distracted. It is to his credit, however, that he loyally denies his master could be the criminal. He has already seen too much nobility in his character to doubt him.
The narrator takes another opportunity to comment on the “colonizing genius of the English” (p. 95) by explaining the history of Hong Kong at the beginning of the chapter. Though in China, the port looks like a “town in Kent or Surrey” (p. 95). Yet he also comments on the opium trade there and the tragic consequences of this drug, sold through English merchants, which condemns thousands to an early death: “one of the most despicable vices which afflict humanity” (p. 97).