The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

by

Douglas Adams

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Back in the main cabin, Trillian asks Zaphod if he can find any hidden meaning in the coordinates where they accidentally picked up the hitchhikers. As he thinks aloud in what seems to be a very stupid way, she wonders about his intelligence. She wonders if he pretends to be stupid to catch people off guard and force them to think for him. Alternatively, she wonders if he actually is stupid. “He was renowned for being amazingly clever and quite clearly was so,” Adams notes, “but not all the time, which obviously worried him, hence the act. He preferred people to be puzzled rather than contemptuous. This above all appeared to Trillian to be genuinely stupid, but she could no longer be bothered to argue about it.”
If Zaphod merely pretends to be stupid, it’s possible that he does so as a way of gaining power over people. In the same way that his job is to hide where true governmental power lies, he might obfuscate his intelligence so that people expect less from him. Indeed, he prefers “people to be puzzled” about him, something that gives him a certain control over his relationships.
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Trillian consults a map of the universe and isolates the area where they picked up the hitchhikers, pointing out that it’s in the same sector as where she originally joined Zaphod. “Hey, yeah,” he says, marveling at how coincidental this is, especially since they were—at the time of picking up the hitchhikers—supposed to be moving through a different part of the galaxy. Annoyed, Trillian reminds him that this is because they’re using the Improbability Drive to travel. “You explained it to me yourself,” she says. “We pass through every point in the Universe.” Wanting to figure out just how improbable it was to take on these hitchhikers in the same location that Trillian originally joined him, Zaphod orders the main onboard computer to solve the problem. However, its cheery disposition annoys him so much that he decides to answer the question himself using a pencil and paper.
Once more, the notion of improbability comes to the forefront of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In this instance, improbability is something that Zaphod believes he can solve, even though it is infinite and therefore something that would be very difficult to consider in any tangible way. In fact, figuring out the probability of something deemed “infinitely improbable” would effectively render it a finite improbability. Yet again, then, the novel’s underlying logic contradicts itself, ultimately creating nothing but meaninglessness and absurdity.
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