The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

by

Douglas Adams

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Chapter 29 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
While Arthur learns about the hyperintelligent pandimensional beings in Slartibartfast’s office, Trillian and Ford try to rouse Zaphod from his gas-induced slumber. Finally, they manage to wake him by telling him he’s currently sleeping on a floor of gold. Jumping up, he examines his surroundings, which Ford explains are made up of Magrathea’s catalog of the worlds they’ve built. “Trillian and I came round a while ago,” Ford says. “We shouted and yelled till somebody came and then carried on shouting and yelling till they got fed up and put us in their planet catalog to keep us busy till they were ready to deal with us. This is all Sens-O-Tape.” Above, a sign appears in the air that reads: Whatever your tastes, Magrathea can cater for you. We are not proud.
The sign that appears in the air about Magrathea’s willingness to “cater” to all kinds of “tastes” illustrates just how preoccupied with money this planet is. Unashamed, the Magratheans will build whatever a client asks them to build. It is this kind of capitalistic mentality that has rendered them the richest planet in the Galaxy. This mentality is also probably why they inadvertently threw the Galaxy into an economic recession: their desire to be rich and powerful is boundless, and they don’t seem to care about the consequences of their financial pursuits.
Themes
Power and Control Theme Icon
As the Sens-O-Tape shifts around them, Zaphod continues telling Ford and Trillian about the oddity he found in his brains. “Whatever happened to my mind, I did it,” he says. “And I did it in such a way that it wouldn’t be detected by the Government screening tests. And I wasn’t to know anything about it myself. Pretty crazy, right?” Going on, he says, “What’s so secret that I can’t let anybody know I know it, not the Galactic Government, not even myself? And the answer is I don’t know. Obviously. But I put a few things together and I can begin to guess.” He then talks about when he first decided to run for president, which was “shortly after the death of President Yooden Vranx.”
In this scene, Zaphod once again confirms that he must be the person who went into his brain and tampered with it, ultimately hiding something from himself. This, it seems, must have been necessary so that other people—the “Galactic Government”—wouldn’t know his plans, whatever they are. If power lies in secrecy, Zaphod has the ultimate power, since he himself doesn’t even know what he’s doing. This, of course, is yet another one of Adams’s ways of creating absurdity in this text, ultimately testing his own theory about power and secrecy and applying it to rather ridiculous circumstances.
Themes
Power and Control Theme Icon
Improbability, Impossibility, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
When Zaphod was young he and Ford hijacked Yooden Vranx’s “Arcturan megafreighter.” These ships were hard to infiltrate, but Zaphod managed to do it. This impressed Yooden, so he welcomed the two youngsters aboard and partied with them before teleporting them to a high security prison. Now, Zaphod reveals that Yooden visited him right before he died and told him about the Heart of Gold. “It was his idea that I should steal it,” he adds. This, it seems, is why Zaphod decided to become president in the first place. It’s also why Zaphod altered his brain to hide his plans. “I don’t seem to be letting myself into any of my secrets,” he says. “Still, I can understand that. I wouldn’t trust myself further than I could spit a rat.” Just then, a Magrathean enters and says, “The mice will see you now.”
A rather mysterious character, Yooden Vranx factors into the plot of the novel rather late. Nonetheless, he serves an important role, providing Zaphod with a reason to steal the Heart of Gold and look for Magrathea. At the same time, though, Zaphod no longer knows what this reason was. As such, readers have essentially learned nothing new about why Zaphod decided to steal the spaceship and travel to Magrathea. In other words, Adams happily lets the plot of his novel devolve into uncertainty, allowing the story to forge onwards even without an underlying framework of meaning. In turn, he challenges conventional notions of plot structures in fiction, eschewing the idea that every single detail should be explained to readers.
Themes
Meaninglessness and Happiness Theme Icon
Improbability, Impossibility, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon