Summary of Chapter 27: “In which Passepartout undergoes, at a speed of twenty miles an hour, a course of Mormon history”
As the train approaches the Great Salt Lake Elder William Hitch, a Mormon missionary, gives a lecture on The Latter Day Saints in car 117. Passepartout knows only about the polygamy, and goes to hear Elder Hitch. Hitch speaks of the martyrdom of Joseph Smith and the persecutions of the U.S. government. The narrator explains how the U. S. had taken over Utah and imprisoned Brigham Young for polygamy. Hitch tells the history of the Mormons from Biblical times. The other passengers leave one by one until only Passepartout hears the end of the lecture at which time Hitch tries to recruit him into the religion. The Frenchman angrily declines.
The narrator describes the wonder of the Great Salt Lake. Fogg’s party gets out at Ogden and takes a side trip to Salt Lake City and continues speculating on the habits of the Mormons, especially how they take many wives. Passepartout imagines the Mormon women are after him. When they catch the train again, a Mormon man is running away from Salt Lake City to get on and barely makes it. Passepartout asks how many wives he had, and he says only one, but that was enough.
Commentary on Chapter 27
Verne finds the Mormons amusing and characteristic of the religious freedom in America that attracts varied sects. He tells the history of the Mormons with a straight face, but Passepartout’s comic speculations afterwards make it clear that Verne thinks them strange. As with the Kali worshippers of India, he paints a caricatured portrait of exotic religions. Passepartout mentions that the Mormon women are anxious to be wives of these polygamists because single women cannot go to heaven. Passepartout imagines all the women ogling him and feels sorry for the men having to be responsible for so many women.