The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy | Study Guide

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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy | Chapter 35 | Summary

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Summary

That night, the Heart of Gold heads away from the Horsehead Nebula at top speed. Zaphod Beeblebrox relaxes with a few Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters; Trillian and Ford Prefect have a philosophical chat about life; and Arthur Dent flips through Ford's copy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

The entry he chances upon explains that every civilization passes through three distinct phases: Survival, Inquiry, and Sophistication. The first is characterized by the question How can we eat? The second asks Why do we eat? The third inquires Where shall we have lunch?

Coincidentally, at that moment, Zaphod asks over the ship's intercom, "Hey, Earthman? You hungry, kid?"

Arthur is, and Zaphod tells him to hold tight; they'll be grabbing a bite to eat at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

Analysis

Arthur Dent at last accepts his new role as a galactic hitchhiker and decides the best thing to do is learn more about the galaxy. Apparently, his status with Zaphod Beeblebrox has risen, as well. There is a feeling of camaraderie in their final chat. The cited destination for getting a bite to eat—the Restaurant at the End of the Universe—is also the title of the next book in the series. The Ultimate Answer to the Ultimate Question remains a mystery, perhaps truly locked in Arthur's brain. If and how it may be accessed is still to be discovered.

As Arthur browses through The Guide, he comes across an entry for the three phases of galactic civilization. Here, Adams is playing off of a theory of social progress called The Law of Three Stages. Developed in the 1800s by French thinker Auguste Comte, the theory suggests that there is a relationship between intellectual evolution and social progress. Passing through each stage of intellectual and social development, humankind transforms itself from a primitive state to a progressive social unit guided by science. Briefly, the three stages are (1) Theological—God-based; (2) Metaphysical—universal human rights–based; and (3) Scientific—science-based. Adams enjoyed philosophy and is having some fun with Comte's idea, suggesting that throughout the galaxy, a similar law is at work. Its stages, however, are How, Why, and Where Do We Eat? The next question is Is the theory as silly as it sounds?

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