Around the World in 80 Days: sub-text

Around the World in 80 Days: sub-text

Understanding Sub-Text in “Around the World in 80 Days”

Definition of Sub-Text

  • The concept of “sub-text” refers to the underlying message or theme in a play, not explicitly stated but inferred through the dialogue, character behaviour, and plot developments.

Main Theme: Critique of Victorian Society

  • In “Around the World in 80 Days”, the main sub-text is a critique of Victorian British society, its values, and its world-view. This is conveyed through the character of Phileas Fogg, a wealthy but emotionally remote Englishman.
  • Fogg’s characterisation reflects the Victorian fascination with order, precision, and control. His prowess with time management, betting, and ambition hints at the industrial revolution’s impact on society, valuing efficiency and progress.

Sub-Theme: Cultural Misunderstanding

  • As Fogg travels from country to country, the play demonstrates the sub-text of cultural misunderstanding. Each destination visited presents diverse cultures often perceived as exotic, strange, or inferior, subtly critiquing the Eurocentric attitudes of the Victorian era.

Sub-Theme: Class Dichotomy

  • The character Passepartout is significant in the sub-text of challenging class dichotomy. His loyalty, strength, and resourcefulness often outshine his master’s, questioning the perceived superiority of the upper-classes.

Sub-Theme: Victorian Gender Roles

  • Importantly, the romance between Fogg and Aouda reveals a sub-text about Victorian gender roles. Aouda’s character deviates from the Victorian ideal of a passive, domestic woman, adding feminist undertones to the narrative.

Additional Themes

  • The cyclical structure of the story, with Fogg returning to the same spot in London, hints at a sub-text of change and resistance. Despite Fogg’s transformative journey, societal norms remain firmly rooted, underscoring the resilience of tradition in the face of new experiences.
  • Additionally, the sub-text of adventure versus domestic responsibility is explored. The tension between Fogg’s commitment to his adventurous wager and the developing relationship with Aouda suggests that personal growth often comes with personal sacrifice.

Exam Tips

  • When revising remember to consider how actors, through their performances, can help to reinforce or challenge these sub-texts. Such detailed understanding will help in crafting critical interpretations of the play that reflect a deeper understanding of the text.