The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy | Study Guide

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Course Hero, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Study Guide," November 28, 2016, accessed September 22, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Hitchhikers-Guide-to-the-Galaxy/.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy | Chapter 32 | Summary

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Summary

A hostile ship has landed on the planet, setting off alarms throughout Magrathea. In the confusion, Arthur Dent, Zaphod Beeblebrox, Trillian, and Ford Prefect have escaped from the mice, Benjy and Frankie. Their plan frustrated, the two mice set about trying to think up a fake Ultimate Question. After a few tries, they settle on: "How many roads must a man walk down?" It sounds significant without meaning anything at all, and the Ultimate Answer "Forty-two" seems to fit nicely.

Half a mile away, the four escapees run into a computer bay, looking for a way to safety. They are halted by the energy bolt from a Kill-O-Zap gun and a voice that warns Zaphod to stay where he is—"We've got you covered." It doesn't take long for the group to figure out that they have been cornered by two cops. While the cops claim that they don't want to shoot anybody, they are quick to blast away in order to get Zaphod to give up. Even so, they assure him and his friends that they don't enjoy what they are doing; they are actually a couple of intelligent, caring guys. They then proceed to hurl bolt after bolt of Kill-O-Zap into the computer bank that the foursome is hiding behind. "There are some things you have to do even if you are an enlightened liberal cop," one officer confides.

The electric barrage continues, and the computer bank begins to melt away. Zaphod, Ford, Trillian, and Arthur huddle together and wait for the end.

Analysis

Like the philosophers Vroomfondel and Majikthise, the mice yet again show their true colors when pushed. Arthur Dent has escaped from them, so their hope for an approximation to the Ultimate Answer is gone. There's nothing left but to make up something they can sell to their potential audience back home.

The Ultimate Question they settle on—"How many roads must a man walk down?"—is from a song written and sung by Bob Dylan in the 1960s. In this song, he poses a list of questions people may suppose cannot be answered, including, "How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?"and "How many years can some people exist before they're allowed to be free?"The song became an anthem for African Americans during the 1960s' civil rights struggle. While Dylan does not claim to know the answers, he says the answers are out there to find, "blowin' in the wind."

According to Douglas Adams, the characters of the two cops who corner the fleeing group are based on those from another American television show from the 1970s: Starsky and Hutch. As Adams saw it, the two TV heroes claimed to dislike shooting people, so they rammed them with their cars instead.

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