How can it happen that, with

a complicated clock which indicated the hours, the minutes, the seconds, the days, the months, and the years

in Fogg's room, as we are told in the first chapter of the "Around the World", in addition to another one in the room of his servant

precisely like that in Mr. Fogg's bedchamber, both beating the same second at the same instant,

as noted in the second chapter, neither character instantly realizes that they have arrived in London on the 79th day instead of the 80th?


3 Answers 3


This is a well-known plot hole. See Wikipedia's article on the book.

However, Fogg's mistake would not have been likely to occur in the real world because a de facto date line did exist. The UK, India, and the US had the same calendar with different local times. When he arrived in San Francisco, he would have noticed that the local date was one day earlier than shown in his travel diary. Consequently, it is unlikely he would fail to notice that the departure dates of the transcontinental train in San Francisco and of the China steamer in New York were one day earlier than his travel diary. He would also somehow have to avoid looking at any newspapers. Additionally, in Who Betrays Elizabeth Bennet?, John Sutherland points out that Fogg and company would have to be "deaf, dumb and blind" not to notice how busy the streets were on an apparent "Sunday", with the Sunday Observance Act 1780 still in effect.

The last line especially indicates Verne was going for dramatic effect (with success, since most readers probably did not realize what was going to happen until it did).


I have come to the conclusion that this is a blatant case of the so-called "Plot Hole" trope, to which not even Jules Verne was immune.

On the page devoted to "Around the World" on the TV Tropes website, all the tropes used in the work (quite a few) are listed, including Plot Hole:

Plot Hole: OK, so the International Date Line didn't exist, so Fogg might not have noticed that he was gaining a few minutes every day if he was counting off days as he went. But he should have noticed the calendar date as he transited the United States, studying train tables and ship schedules. In particular, even if Fogg never so much as looked at a newspaper in the United States, he should not have missed his transatlantic steamer — unless for some unexplained reason it left a whole day earlier than scheduled.

So Verne throws Fogg's precision and fastidiousness out the window in order to include his dramatic appearance at the Reform Club at the last second, prompted by the impossibility of marrying Aouda the next day.

I wonder why Fogg should believe a parson and not a clock.

Edited 2023-07-28

I want to expand this answer to my own question, in the sense that the "Plot Hole" does not refer to the rest of the clocks and calendars in the world, but specifically, to the clock-calendar located in Fogg's own room.

The Wikipedia quote in @Allure's answer and my own quote from TV Tropes referring to the rest of the world's clocks, calendars, newspapers, and train and ship schedules, IMHO, do not explain the matter as a Plot Hole, but as Contrived Coincidence. From TV Tropes page about Plot Holes (emphasis is my own):

It is also important to point out that plot holes aren't plot contrivances, as the two terms are sometimes conflated. The difference between a plot hole and a plot contrivance is one of the impossible verses the improbable. A plot hole is something that happens in the narrative that's impossible due to the internal logic of the story's universe, or at least, the story have never established or even hinted at it as being possible. A plot contrivance is when something happens in the narrative that's certainly possible within the story's universe, but the chances of it happening are extremely, sometimes even infinitesimally slim, and only happens because the author needed it to happen. For such cases, the trope you would be looking for is Contrived Coincidence.

Thus, the true Plot Hole would consist in the fact that this master clock, introduced into the plot in the first chapter of "Around the World" as a means of establishing the character of Phileas Fogg as a paragon of inhuman accuracy, is absolutely ignored at the end of the play, although we are repeatedly shown a protagonist obsessed with the passage of time during his detention at Liverpool Custom House (chapter XXXIV):

However that may have been, Mr. Fogg carefully put his watch upon the table, and observed its advancing hands.

The Custom House clock struck one. Mr. Fogg observed that his watch was two hours too fast.

Back at his home on Saville Row, Fogg spends practically a whole day locked in his room to put his affairs in order:

Mr. Fogg called him [Passepartout] in the morning, and told him to get Aouda's breakfast, and a cup of tea and a chop for himself. He desired Aouda to excuse him from breakfast and dinner, as his time would be absorbed all day in putting his affairs to rights. In the evening he would ask permission to have a few moment's conversation with the young lady.

Well, presumably Fogg would have looked at the calendar clock at some point, if only to see if it was time to see Aouda.

The only explanation I can think of this Plot Hole lies in the way "Around the World" was originally published. From Wikipedia:

The story began serialization in [the newspaper] Le Temps on 6 November 1872. The story was published in installments over the next 45 days, with its ending timed to synchronize Fogg's December 21 deadline with the real world. Chapter XXXV appeared on 20 December; 21 December, the date upon which Fogg was due to appear back in London, did not include an installment of the story; on 22 December, the final two chapters announced Fogg's success.

Well, everyone knows that newspapers are the fastest depreciating commodity in the universe. The newspaper that today costs, say, $1, tomorrow is worth $0 and is only good as wrapping paper. The same applies to the content: what is news today is history tomorrow.

Perhaps in 45 days Verne forgot about the aforementioned clock, or perhaps not, but it is certain that the readers, trapped in the story, had already forgotten it. And the Plot Hole would only become evident after the full publication of the story in book form.

  • 11
    "I wonder why Fogg should believe a parson and not a clock." I'd rather expect a parson to know when it was a Sunday, even if he was a bit vague about the other six days;-) Commented Jul 25, 2023 at 20:59

In fact, this was pointed out to Verne by his editor Hetzel. From the 1995 edition translated by Butcher, in one of the footnotes to Chapter 37:

For Fogg not to have realized what day it was, he cannot have read the newspapers since the Pacific. Hetzel in fact reminded Verne of the existence of Fogg’s clock (Ch. 1). Verne wrote back admitting that 'since the clock marks the days, he would easily see that he has gained a day'; but pointing out that in fact 'he finds his clock stopped'.

And so the official explanation is that the clock stopped while Fogg was away. (One presumes he reset it when he arrived, then had to fix it after discovering he was a day off.)

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