The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

by

Douglas Adams

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Chapter 24 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
When Arthur and Slartibartfast arrive on the factory floor deep inside Magrathea, Arthur looks with “a kind of wonderful horror” at the magnificent and odd things suspended from the ceiling—the “spherical shapes” and “delicate traceries of metal and light.” Arthur asks if the Magratheans are starting their business again after their long hibernation, but Slartibartfast tells him that “the Galaxy isn’t nearly rich enough to support” that yet. “No,” he continues, “we’ve been awakened to perform just one extraordinary commission for very…special clients from another dimension. It may interest you…there in the distance in front of us.” Following Slartibartfast’s outstretched finger, Arthur catches a glimpse of his home planet. “The Earth…” he says in awe. “Well,” replies Slartibartfast, “the Earth Mark Two in fact.”
When Slartibartfast points out a new version of the Earth to Arthur, it slowly becomes clear that Magratheans must have built the original Earth. This means that Earth was a custom-designed luxury planet—a staggering notion. In turn, Adams reinforces the idea that “things are not always what they seem,” producing yet another outlandish plot point that upends readers’ (and Arthur’s) expectations.
Themes
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Related Quotes
Dumbfounded, Arthur asks if Slartibartfast made the Earth. “Oh yes,” the old man answers. “Did you ever go to a place…I think it was called Norway?” Arthur says that he never made it to Norway, to which Slartibartfast says, “Pity, that was one of mine. Won an award, you know. Lovely crinkly edges. I was most upset to hear of its destruction.” As Arthur grumbles, Slartibartfast muses, “Yes. Five minutes later and it wouldn’t have mattered so much.”  This confuses Arthur, but Slartibartfast only says, “The mice were furious.” “Yes, well, so I expect were the dogs and cats and duck-billed platypuses,” says Arthur sarcastically. “Ah,” responds Slartibartfast, “but they hadn’t paid for it, you see, had they?” He then reveals that Earth was “commissioned, paid for, and run by mice,” and that it was destroyed “five minutes before the completion of the purpose for which it was built.”
Many of the surprising plot twists in Adams’s novel are simple reversals of things that humans take for granted. For instance, humans see mice as insignificant creatures who—at their best—can be kept as pets. When Slartibartfast says that mice “commissioned” and “paid for” Earth, though, suddenly everything Arthur thinks he knows about this small species upends itself, leaving him to grasp for answers in the face of this improbable turn of events.
Themes
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Improbability, Impossibility, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
Because Earth was destroyed “five minutes before” it fulfilled its purpose, Slartibartfast explains, the Magratheans have been hired to build it again. Arthur, for his part, has trouble coming to terms with the fact that his planet was run by mice, but Slartibartfast maintains that mice “are not quite as they appear.” Indeed, they are “merely the protrusion into our dimension of vastly hyperintelligent pandimensional beings.” He then adds that these beings have been experimenting on humans. Hearing this, Arthur insists that humans were the ones experimenting on mice, but Slartibartfast helps him see that the mice manipulated humans into thinking they were in control when they really weren’t. “How better to disguise their real natures, and how better to guide your thinking. Suddenly running down a maze the wrong way, eating the wrong bit of cheese, unexpectedly dropping dead of myxomatosis.”
Yet again, Adams proves that true power and control comes when the submissive party doesn’t even know it is submitting to the will of the dominant party. For years, humans have believed that they’ve been studying mice, but in reality mice have been studying them, manipulating humans by obfuscating their own power. This subtle technique has enabled them to “guide” human thought while simultaneously avoiding suspicion.
Themes
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Improbability, Impossibility, and Absurdity Theme Icon
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