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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. 27 Jan. 2023. <>.

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Course Hero. (2016, November 28). The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved January 27, 2023, from

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Course Hero. "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Study Guide." November 28, 2016. Accessed January 27, 2023.


Course Hero, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Study Guide," November 28, 2016, accessed January 27, 2023,

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy | Symbols


Douglas Adams uses a variety of symbols to represent different aspects of life, from humankind's quest for philosophical answers and fact-based knowledge, to the unpredictable nature of life and the effects of personal perspective on its meaning.

Deep Thought

Deep Thought represents humankind's ongoing quest to answer the questions of life, such as Why are we here? What is life's purpose? It also represents the foolishness of seeking answers without understanding or clearly defining the question first. The first step toward getting the "right" answers to the questions of life is to recognize and formulate the important questions. All of the right answers in the universe will do no good if the right questions are not asked to begin with. This is perfectly proven by Deep Thought's seven-and-a-half-million-year-long program that arrives at the Ultimate Answer of "Forty-two"—a meaningless response, because the matching question is unknown. The novel, however, offers hope. The subsequent program run by the supercomputer Earth implies there is an Ultimate Question to fit the mysterious Answer, but only when that is known, will the Ultimate Answer make sense. In a universe full of miscommunication, tangled bureaucracy, and greedy self-interest, however, intelligent beings may continue to trip up their own success in this matter.


In the world of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the towel is a symbol of safety when embarking on an unknown journey. In a larger sense, it symbolizes practical things people usually take for granted as well as the predetermined standards by which they judge other people. As may be expected, Adams takes an under-appreciated everyday item and gives it an absurdly important role for galactic hitchhikers. Not only is an ordinary towel useful as a pillow and for drying off, but it can save a hitchhiker's life in hand-to-hand combat or if confronted by the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal. Adams is underscoring the idea that the ordinary may become, under different circumstances, the extraordinary, or at least indispensable.

The towel, according to The Hitchhiker's Guide, also has immense psychological value. When a hitchhiker has journeyed and fought his way across the length and breadth of the galaxy and still knows where his towel is, he is a man to be reckoned with. He is also assumed to be a man with possessions—whether he ever had them or not. As a result, non-hitchhikers will gladly supply him with whatever he needs to replace any items "accidentally lost." In other words, just as Earthlings judge others by predetermined standards (such as their job or where they live), beings throughout the universe judge hitchhikers by their towels. Whether or not they will help a hitchhiker is determined by that possession. Adams is underscoring the importance people attach to superficial standards of judging others, and once again, the towel assumes an absurdly important role in the universe.

Every May 25, fans of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy annually celebrate Towel Day, paying tribute to the genius of Douglas Adams by carrying towels.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Within the novel, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a kind of electronic book that provides Arthur and readers useful tips for galactic travel. It is described as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom. It tells readers everything necessary to know about anything, and it has replaced the Encyclopedia Galactica in popularity and sales. In this way, the guide is a symbol of how the search for knowledge and wisdom can be confounding. What often seems most meaningful (like the planet where one resides or digital watches), in the grand scheme of things, may have little meaning after all. In contrast, something as ordinary as a towel may have great significance. Even so, the fact that the The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy exists suggests that the galaxy can be understood and explained somehow—and enjoyed "for less than thirty Altairian dollars a day."

Heart of Gold

The Heart of Gold, a state-of-the-art starship, is uniquely powered by an Infinite Improbability Drive—a small golden box at the heart of the ship—which features an Infinite Improbability Generator. When the starship's drive reaches infinite improbability, it passes through every point in the universe at the same time. Although it's an enormously useful device for traveling across vast parsecs of space, the results of its use are entirely unpredictable. With all its highly developed and refined technology, the Heart of Gold is still subject to the improbabilities of life; in fact, it is powered by them. So, the random nature of life may be problematic at times, but its inevitable unpredictability keeps life in motion.

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