The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy | Study Guide

Douglas Adams

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Course Hero. "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Study Guide." Course Hero. 28 Nov. 2016. Web. 15 July 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Hitchhikers-Guide-to-the-Galaxy/>.

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Course Hero. (2016, November 28). The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved July 15, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Hitchhikers-Guide-to-the-Galaxy/

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Course Hero. "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Study Guide." November 28, 2016. Accessed July 15, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Hitchhikers-Guide-to-the-Galaxy/.

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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy | Chapter 16 | Summary

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Summary

The sound of an argument brings Arthur Dent to the bridge. Ford Prefect and Zaphod Beeblebrox are vigorously disagreeing over whether the planet on the ship's screen is Magrathea or not. Ford contends that it isn't; Zaphod is sure that it is. Eddie, the bubbly shipboard computer, agrees with Zaphod.

The planet on the screen looks very, very old, gray, and "cold as a crypt." Watching the featureless surface pass by on the screen, Arthur wonders aloud—apropos of nothing—if there is any tea on the ship. He is ignored, and for the sake of argument, Ford asks why Zaphod cares if it is Magrathea or not. What is he after? Slowly the truth comes out. Zaphod believes that, somewhere beneath the surface, half the wealth of the former Galactic Empire is stored.

Then, to avoid undue stress and nervous tension for the reader, the author explains that the planet is Magrathea, and that it will soon automatically launch a deadly missile attack, but no one on the ship will be hurt beyond the bruising of somebody's upper arm. On the other hand, a bowl of petunias and an innocent whale will be created and then meet their demise.

Analysis

Thanks to the narrator, it is confirmed the planet that the Heart of Gold is orbiting is Magrathea. Nevertheless, the real reason that Zaphod Beeblebrox has gone looking for the planet is still a mystery. He tries to explain that "it's partly the curiosity, partly a sense of adventure, but mostly I think it's the fame and the money." Ford Prefect, however, has the strong impression that this is pure nonsense; that Zaphod has no idea why he is here.

As Zaphod tries to convince Ford of the reality of Magrathea and the wonder of finding a legend, Ford finds himself becoming irritated. It's enough for him to look upon a strange new planet and see it as it is. It does not have to be a mythic place. "Isn't it enough," he asks Zaphod, "to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?" The statement has been described as an elegant expression of Adams's personal brand of atheism—"a kind of happy atheism crossed with his own love of the Earth."

Adams was a committed environmentalist and devoted a great deal of time to raising public awareness of endangered species. His book Last Chance to See pays tribute to the beauty, strangeness, and fragility of the natural world. His love of the environment, however, did not take on religious overtones. Like Ford, he grasped the wonder of it all without any sense that it was connected to the divine. Adams found religion fascinating, but not necessary or intellectually persuasive. Even so, he believed it to be a topic worth exploring, and questions about it are raised throughout The Hitchhiker's Guide.

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