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," November 28, 2016, accessed August 20, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Hitchhikers-Guide-to-the-Galaxy/.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy | Chapter 23 | Summary

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Summary

In an aside to readers, the narrator explains that things are not always what they seem. On Earth, this holds true for dolphins, who had always believed they were more intelligent than man and had long known of Earth's impending destruction. Though they had tried to communicate this information to humans, their attempts were interpreted as cute, clever tricks. Finally, they gave up and left Earth shortly before its destruction. Their last message to humans was misinterpreted as a double-backward-somersault while whistling, but it, in fact, meant, "So long and thanks for all the fish."

There is one Earth species even more intelligent than dolphins and equally misunderstood by man. This species spent lots of time in behavioral research laboratories running around inside wheels and conducting amazingly subtle experiments on man.

Analysis

The mystery of the two intelligent life-forms on Earth ranked above man is solved. The question is, how will this fit into the improbable pattern of events?

Once again, Adams looks at something people assume to be true—the hierarchy of dolphin/human intelligence— and turns it upside down. Dolphins are intelligent, complex creatures and are often used in scientific studies of animal intelligence and behavior. Popular culture views them as something like dogs: trainable, loyal, playful, and smart. In this section, Adams suggests that people may be underestimating dolphins and perhaps should pay closer attention. The title of Adams's last book in his five-part trilogy is the dolphins' last message to man: "So Long and Thanks for All the Fish."

The description of the life-form first in intelligence on Earth suggests mice. Here again, people's assumptions are completely upended. All the time they thought they were using mice in research projects, the mice have been "conducting frighteningly elegant and subtle experiments on man." Considering the coincidental presence of two mice aboard the Heart of Gold, it must be assumed that more will be heard from them later.

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