Course Hero. "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Study Guide." Course Hero. 28 Nov. 2016. Web. 14 June 2021. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Hitchhikers-Guide-to-the-Galaxy/>.
Course Hero. (2016, November 28). The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved June 14, 2021, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Hitchhikers-Guide-to-the-Galaxy/
(Course Hero, 2016)
Course Hero. "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Study Guide." November 28, 2016. Accessed June 14, 2021. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Hitchhikers-Guide-to-the-Galaxy/.
Course Hero, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Study Guide," November 28, 2016, accessed June 14, 2021, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Hitchhikers-Guide-to-the-Galaxy/.
Far out in the uncharted backwaters ... of the Galaxy lies a small, unregarded yellow sun.
This opening line to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy establishes the absolute insignificance of the solar system compared to the vastness of the Galaxy. A description follows of the utterly insignificant little blue-green planet orbiting the small, unregarded yellow sun. Nevertheless, the story about to unfold begins with this inconsequential planet when, on a Thursday, "a terrible stupid catastrophe occurred." As the narrator explains, the catastrophe will have extraordinary consequences.
'This must be Thursday,' said Arthur ... 'I never could get the hang of Thursdays.'
Ford Prefect has drawn Arthur Dent away from the threatened demolition of his house to the local pub. It's only lunchtime, but Ford insists that Arthur drink up three pints of beer—the world is about to end, and he'll need a muscle relaxant. Ford has also confided to Arthur that he is not an out-of-work actor from Guildford, but an alien from a small planet in the vicinity of Betelgeuse. This is all a bit too much for Arthur to digest. He likes and expects an ordered world where unusual things like this don't occur. While complying with Ford's directive to "drink up," Arthur is still convinced that he is just having another bad Thursday.
The words Don't Panic are written in large friendly letters on the plastic cover of the electronic guidebook The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It is introduced as "the most remarkable of all books ever to come out of the great publishing corporations of Ursa Minor." Ford Prefect later shows the book to Arthur Dent after they escape Earth's destruction by hitching a ride on the Vogon Constructor Fleet's flagship. Arthur is trying desperately to cope with events. As Ford explains, the book "tells you everything you need to know about anything." It's the slogan "Don't Panic" that attracts Arthur's attention. "It's the first helpful or intelligible thing anybody's said to me all day," he declares.
Everything was ready, everything was prepared. He knew where his towel was.
As the Vogon Constructor Fleet arrives to demolish Earth, Ford Prefect watches the sky with terrible sadness. He alone knows what is coming. He alone is all set. Most importantly, in his leather satchel he is carrying a large bath towel from the department store Marks and Spencer. He is annoyed to learn that Arthur Dent is not carrying a towel. Ownership of a towel is vital and second nature to the interstellar hitchhiker. A towel is, in fact, "the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have." Besides its practical value, a towel has the psychological value of impressing other people. When in possession of a towel, a hitchhiker is judged as experienced, capable, and worthy of respect. As the electronic book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy states: "Any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the Galaxy ... and still know where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with."
All the planning charts and demolition orders have been on display ... for fifty of your Earth years.
Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz—captain of the Vogon Constructor Fleet's flagship—has announced to the people of Earth that demolition of their planet is about to begin. Observing the terror and panic that ensues, the Vogon informs the people that the plans for demolition have been on display for fifty Earth years; they have no excuse for making a fuss. This echoes the claim of Mr. L. Prosser who informs Arthur Dent that the plans to demolish his house have been on display for the last nine months. Of course, the local display department is nearly as inaccessible as the interstellar planning department. The first is located in an unlit cellar, at the bottom of a locked filing cabinet, in a disused lavatory with a sign "Beware of the Leopard." The second is located in distant Alpha Centauri, four light-years away. Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz takes it as a sign of apathy that mankind has never been to Alpha Centauri.
A huge starship ... shaped like a sleek running shoe, perfectly white and mind-bogglingly beautiful.
The remarkable starship Heart of Gold waits to be unveiled inside a dome on the planet Damogran. Inside, at its heart, is the Infinite Improbability Drive, an ingenious device for "crossing vast interstellar distances in a mere nothingth of a second." Douglas Adams has some fun with the starship's described shape. While suggesting something very fast, it conjures the absurd image of a giant shoe in space. As the comparison continues, it pushes the boundaries of absurdity even further—running shoes are rarely, if ever, mind-bogglingly beautiful.
Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz was a fairly typical Vogon in that he was thoroughly vile. Also he did not like hitchhikers.
The Vogons are responsible for the callous destruction of Earth. This observation by the narrator describes the captain of the Vogon Constructor Fleet and sums up the Vogons as a race. The electronic guidebook The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy further describes them as one of the most unpleasant races in the Galaxy as well as bad-tempered bureaucrats who take red tape and inefficiency to an absurd level. As an example, to save their own grandmothers from the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal, Vogons would demand orders "signed in triplicate, sent in, sent back, queried, lost, found, subjected to public inquiry, lost again, and finally buried in soft peat and recycled as firelighters."
Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz's dislike of hitchhikers proves nearly fatal to Ford and Arthur. After torturing them with his poetry, he instructs a young Vogon guard to throw the two off his ship and into space.
Nelson's Column has gone. McDonald's has gone ... Any second now all that will be left is Mostly harmless.
Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent have been thrown into an airlock on the Vogon ship and will soon be ejected into space. Arthur is struggling to come to terms with all that has happened since Thursday morning, when "the planet seemed to be going so well." Now the whole thing has vanished, taking with it the great and the mundane. When he is gone, all that will be left of Earth is a two-word entry in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Mostly harmless.
This is Ford's contribution to the guide. His original purpose for visiting Earth was to conduct research and write an update on the planet. The old guide's entry read "Harmless." Ford defends the skimpy entry by explaining to Arthur that "there are a hundred billion stars in the Galaxy, and only a limited amount of space in the book's microprocessors ... and no one knew much about Earth, of course." So "mostly harmless" is an improvement, though it underscores the perceived insignificance of the planet. Mostly Harmless is also the title of the fifth and final book in Adams's five-part Hitchhiker's trilogy.
I don't want to go to heaven with a headache. I'd be all cross and wouldn't enjoy it!
Launched from crisis to crisis throughout the story, Arthur Dent is repeatedly faced with life-and-death situations. The first is his narrow escape—thanks to Ford Prefect—from annihilation along with planet Earth. He is not fully aware of that danger, however, until afterward, when he finds himself transported to relative safety aboard the Vogon spaceship. Now, as he and Ford are being lugged by a young Vogon guard toward an airlock to be pushed out into space, Arthur is painfully aware of the peril. Frantically, he grasps for any reason he can think of why he shouldn't be made to die. It's an absurdly feeble and childish excuse, which lends dark humor to the situation. At the same time, it is a very human reaction fueled by panic, to which readers can relate.
This is Marvin's daily lament and sums up his personality. He is a product of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation and a prototype for robots with Genuine People Personalities. Obviously, the kinks in the program had not been worked out. Marvin's chronic depression leads him to feel disliked and unappreciated, as when he asks, "Do you want me to sit in a corner and rust or just fall apart where I'm standing?" He performs his duties in a hopeless state of resentment, viewing life as ghastly and rubbish. In a forlorn bid for attention, he may ask, "I'm not getting you down at all, am I?"
Arthur blinked at the screens ... 'Is there any tea on this spaceship?' he asked.
Arthur Dent is an average Englishman, whose ordered life includes a nice cup of tea. Between crises, he is continually trying to get a handle on changing events and to straighten out his lifestyle. At this moment, on the screen before him, a double sunrise is appearing from behind the legendary planet Magrathea. Unable to comprehend what he is seeing, Arthur turns his thoughts to something comfortable, familiar, and soothing: a cup of tea. As absurd as this seems in light of the extraordinary thing happening on the screen, from Arthur's point of view, a cup of tea is perfectly normal. What is utterly absurd is the situation he finds himself in.
So long and thanks for all the fish.
This is the final message from Earth's dolphins before they leave the planet, shortly before the Vogons arrive. It was misinterpreted by humans to be "a surprisingly sophisticated attempt to do a double-backward somersault through a hoop while whistling the 'Star-Spangled Banner.'" Though humans have always assumed they are more intelligent than dolphins, this is apparently a completely wrong notion. The dolphins had known for some time about the coming destruction of Earth and had tried to warn humans. In their ignorance, humans assumed that the dolphins were only putting on cute and clever performances for their amusement. This proves that things are not always what they seem to be.
'That's right,' shouted Vroomfondel, 'we demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!'
Vroomfondel and his fellow philosopher, Majikthise, belong to an alien race from another dimension of the galaxy. There is something recognizably human, however, in this demand for rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty. It represents another form of bureaucracy—the self-serving silliness of people and alien life-forms everywhere who are more interested in maintaining the status quo than in finding solutions to anything. Vroomfondel and Majikthise are objecting to Deep Thought's intention to compute the Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. This is their arena, or as Majikthise puts it, "the Quest for Ultimate Truth is quite clearly the inalienable prerogative of your working thinkers." If the answer is found by a machine, they and all philosophers will be out of a job. It is better for the Truth to remain a mystery as long as possible.
Adams further satirizes this position with the absurdity of Vroomfondel's demand. Doubt and uncertainty are, by definition, vague and unstructured. They cannot be rigidly defined. It defies logic, which is supposed to be the philosophers' area of expertise. Moreover, the philosophers are so busy protecting their job that they fail to notice that the scientists have not asked the right philosophical question, anyway.
Deep Thought has been computing the Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything for 7.5 million years. When the Time of Waiting is over, Deep Thought warns the descendants of Lunkwill and Fook, who are Loonquawl and Phouchg, that they are not going to like the answer. As it turns out, the computer is right. Deep Thought is adamant that the answer is correct; the problem lies with the question. Once the Ultimate Question is known, the Ultimate Answer will make sense. Clearly, good answers require good questions.
"Forty-two" is one of many quotations from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy that have made it into popular culture. Others are mentioned above, including "Don't Panic," "Mostly harmless," "So long and thanks for all the fish," "This must be Thursday ... I never could get the hang of Thursdays," and almost anything said by Marvin.
The chances of finding out what really is going on are so absurdly remote.
Arthur Dent has just finished viewing the Sens-O-Tape records explaining the true nature of Earth. He now knows that the planet was a powerful supercomputer running a 10-million-year-long program designed by hyperintelligent pandimensional beings. Arthur muses that this may explain the feeling he has always had that something big, even sinister, was going on in the world. He further wonders if whatever it is has its source somewhere outside the Universe. This line of thought disinterests Slartibartfast. He's not concerned with the big questions being pursued by the philosophers and the mice. He is content to focus on the here and now, designing his fjords.