Mr. Richard Bernard
December 4, 2017
Essay on The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Douglas Adams’ science-fiction novel, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a humorous novel which teaches us about friendship, impossibility, and especially the meaning of life. In this essay, I will talk about Adams’ take on how humans cope with things that they cannot comprehend. The main character, Arthur Dent, is a thirty-something year-old man who’s never at ease with himself. In this story, we see him try to discover the meaning of life, while going through many improbable events. Every time Arthur is faced with these seemingly impossible obstacles, he would attempt to understand the situation. He would fail to understand and wonder why no one else was asking questions. For example, in chapter 18, two rockets turn into a whale and a bowl of petunias. Arthur, because he is human, wonders how this happened. Meanwhile, all the characters acknowledge that it has happened, and do not care to find out why. Since Arthur is the only human in this story, he is the only one to ask himself useless questions, as humans tend to do. This book teaches us not to ask questions, because the universe is a very big and mysterious place, and we will never be able to find an answer without creating more questions along with it.
The way Arthur copes with these impossible events seems stupid compared to the other character’s reactions, but it is the most human way to react, and it shows that humans always try to find an answer even when there is no answer. When Arthur is faced with these events, he attempts to understand them. He states the obvious. For example, at the start of the book, when he finds himself on a spaceship, Arthur has no idea where he is, but says: “It’s dark.” His friend, who is not human, says that “one of the things [he] has always found hard to understand about humans is their habit of continually stating and repeating the very very obvious.” We know that this is because by stating what we know, we can try to connect ideas and figure out what we don’t know. Arthur also tries to connect the event to something simpler. He says, at page 57, that he “wished there was something simple and recognizable [he] could grasp hold of” to help him understand the bigger picture. Another example is when the entire Earth is destroyed, Arthur can’t quite wrap his mind around what happened. Instead, he thinks of something simpler, like how he will never be able to eat a McDonald’s burger again. The last way Arthur reacts to things he can’t comprehend is by blaming it on something completely unrelated. For example, when the world starts ending, Arthur says: “This must be Thursday… I never could get the hang of Thursdays.”
Arthur, as well as the human race as a whole, has spend a long time trying to figure out the meaning of life. In the book, some aliens build a supercomputer and ask him, “What is the meaning of life, the Universe, everything?” The computer answers, “Forty-two.” So, this just raised more questions. If the answer to everything is 42, then what is the question to everything? This just proves that no matter how many questions you answer, you will never be satisfied. There will always be more questions to ask. Humans will never figure out everything in the Universe, and it is useless to try. In this novel, we see Arthur slowly give up on his goal of trying to find a meaning to life. And at the end of the book, Arthur has not only gave up on trying to find the answer, he doesn’t even care anymore. The big lesson that Arthur has learned, and the message of this book, is to stop trying to find meaning in everything. Everything is meaningless, and no matter how much you try you will never matter. This might seem like a depressing message, but it can also be taken in a way that’s more optimistic. Yes, life has no meaning, but that means that we should stop trying to find a meaning and just enjoy life as it goes.
Arthur Dent eventually comes to accept that the universe is irrational and meaningless. The readers of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy should learn from Arthur and accept that their life has no meaning, and should instead be spent living in the moment. Humans ask too many questions when they don’t even need to know the answer. So, to conclude this essay, do aliens exist? What is the meaning of life? Can two rockets actually turn into a whale and a bowl of petunias? To all these questions, my answer is I do not know, and I do not care, and neither should you. Don’t forget; what you don’t know can’t hurt you.