The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy


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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Chapter 30 Summary & Analysis

Back in Slartibartfast’s office, Arthur and the old man discuss the fact that Deep Thought designed Earth, and that the Vogons destroyed it five minutes before the program was finished. “Ten million years of planning and work gone just like that,” Slartibartfast says. Reflecting that an entire civilization could develop “five times over in that time,” he adds, “Well, that’s bureaucracy for you.” Arthur says that he thinks he sensed this, since for his whole life he has felt as if something “big” and “sinister” has been going on. “No,” Slartibartfast says, “that’s just perfectly normal paranoia. Everyone in the Universe has that.” He then outlines his personal philosophy, saying, “I always think that the chances of finding out what really is going on are so absurdly remote that the only thing to do is to say hang the sense of it and just keep yourself occupied.”
Slartibartfast’s personal philosophy provides a perfect framework for the entire novel. Indeed, Adams clearly endorses the idea of simply “keep[ing]” oneself “occupied” in the face of unanswerable questions. In fact, this is exactly what the novel itself has been doing for the past thirty chapters—none of the central characters seem to know why the things that are happening are taking place, but this hasn’t stopped them from continuing to go through the motions. Similarly, readers know for a fact that Zaphod can’t remember why he wanted to find Magrathea, and yet this hasn’t kept them from continuing to read. As such, Adams intimates that life is an experience that ought to be lived, not a question that needs to be answered.
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Slartibartfast tells Arthur that he won an award for designing Norway, but he doesn’t attach too much significance to it—it’s just an award. Now, he’s tasked with designing Africa for the Earth Mark Two, but his bosses don’t want him to give the continent fjords because they aren’t “equatorial enough.” Changing the subject, the old man tells Arthur that it’s time for him to meet the mice. “Your arrival on the planet has caused considerable excitement. It has already been hailed, so I gather, as the third most improbable event in the history of the universe.” Following Slartibartfast out of the office, Arthur dejectedly mutters, “I seem to be having tremendous difficulty with my life-style.”
For Slartibartfast, designing planets is nothing more than a job. That he won an award for building Norway only emphasizes the fact that his involvement with the Earth is not nearly as meaningful as Arthur’s. Hearing Slartibartfast talk about designing the Earth Mark Two surely makes Arthur feel like his home planet is nothing more than a business project, lending him a new perspective with which to examine his previous life.
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