The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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Arthur Dent Character Analysis

Arthur Dent is a British man who unknowingly escapes the destruction of earth with his alien friend, Ford Prefect. On the morning of earth’s annihilation, Arthur wakes up with a hangover and learns that his house is about to be destroyed by a construction company. In the midst of arguing with the construction foreman, Mr. Prosser, about the project, he is whisked away by Ford, whom he thinks is—like him—an average human. However, he learns this isn’t the case when he finds himself in the Vogon alien spaceship as a stowaway. Before long, the ship’s commander, Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz, throws him (along with Ford) into space, thereby beginning his journey through the galaxy. Luckily, Arthur and Ford are saved by Zaphod Beeblebrox and Trillian’s spaceship, the Heart of Gold. Strangely enough, Arthur recognizes Trillian, whom he once flirted with at a party on earth. As Arthur travels with this group of aliens, he is at once easy-going and incredulous, accepting his new circumstances even as he struggles to comprehend the wonders of the galaxy.

Arthur Dent Quotes in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy quotes below are all either spoken by Arthur Dent or refer to Arthur Dent. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Meaninglessness and Happiness Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Random House edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy published in 1979.
Chapter 1 Quotes

The word bulldozer wandered through his mind for a moment in search of something to connect with.

The bulldozer outside the kitchen window was quite a big one.

He stared at it.

“Yellow,” he thought, and stomped off back to his bedroom to get dressed.

Passing the bathroom he stopped to drink a large glass of water, and another. He began to suspect that he was hung over. Why was he hung over? Had he been drinking the night before? He supposed that he must have been. He caught a glint in the shaving mirror. “Yellow,” he thought, and stomped on to the bedroom.

Related Characters: Arthur Dent (speaker), Mr. L. Prosser (speaker)
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

Bypasses are devices that allow some people to dash from point A to point B very fast while other people dash from point B to point A very fast. People living at point C, being a point directly in between, are often given to wonder what’s so great about point A that so many people from point B are so keen to get there, and what’s so great about point B that so many people from point A are so keen to get there. They often wish that people would just once and for all work out where the hell they wanted to be.

Related Characters: Arthur Dent, Mr. L. Prosser
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

“But Mr. Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning office for the last nine months.”

“Oh yes, well, as soon as I heard I went straight round to see them, yesterday afternoon. You hadn’t exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them, had you? I mean, like actually telling anybody or anything.”

“But the plans were on display…”

“On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”

“That’s the display department.”

“With a flashlight.”

“Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”

“So had the stairs.”

“But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”

“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.’”

Related Characters: Arthur Dent, Mr. L. Prosser
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

“So all your men are going to be standing around all day doing nothing?”

“Could be, could be…”

“Well, if you’re resigned to doing that anyway, you don’t actually need him to lie here all the time do you?”

“What?”

“You don’t,” said Ford patiently, “actually need him here.”

Mr. Prosser thought about this.

“Well, no, not as such…” he said, “not exactly need…”

Prosser was worried. He thought that one of them wasn’t making a lot of sense.

Ford said, “So if you would just like to take it as read that he’s actually here, then he and I could slip off down to the pub for half an hour. How does that sound?”

Related Characters: Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, Mr. L. Prosser
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

Ford was very kind—he gave the barman another five-pound note and told him to keep the change. The barman looked at it and then looked at Ford. He suddenly shivered: he experienced a momentary sensation that he didn’t understand because no one on Earth had ever experienced it before. In moments of great stress, every life form that exists gives out a tiny subliminal signal. This signal simply communicates an exact and almost pathetic sense of how far that being is from the place of his birth. On Earth it is never possible to be farther than sixteen thousand miles from your birthplace, which really isn’t very far, so such signals are too minute to be noticed. Ford Prefect was at this moment under great stress, and he was born six hundred light-years away in the near vicinity of Betelgeuse.

The barman reeled for a moment, hit by a shocking, incomprehensible sense of distance. He didn’t know what it meant, but he looked at Ford Prefect with a new sense of respect, almost awe.

Related Characters: Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

England no longer existed. He’d got that—somehow he’d got it. He tried again. America, he thought, has gone. He couldn’t grasp it. He decided to start smaller again. New York has gone. No reaction. He’d never seriously believed it existed anyway. The dollar, he thought, has sunk for ever. Slight tremor there. Every Bogart movie has been wiped, he said to himself, and that gave him a nasty knock. McDonald’s, he thought. There is no longer any such thing as a McDonald’s hamburger.

He passed out. When he came round a second later he found he was sobbing for his mother.

Related Characters: Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

“Yes, do continue…” invited the Vogon.

“Oh…and, er…interesting rhythmic devices too,” continued Arthur, “which seemed to counterpoint the…er…er…” he floundered.

Ford leaped to his rescue, hazarding “…counterpoint the surrealism of the underlying metaphor of the…er…” He floundered too, but Arthur was ready again.

“…humanity of the…”

Vogonity,” Ford hissed at him.

“Ah yes, Vogonity—sorry—of the poet’s compassionate soul”—Arthur felt he was on a homestretch now—“which contrives through the medium of the verse structure to sublimate this, transcend that, and come to terms with the fundamental dichotomies of the other”—he was reaching a triumphant crescendo—“and one is left with a profound and vivid insight into…into…er…” (which suddenly gave out on him). Ford leaped in with the coup de grace:

“Into whatever it was the poem was about!” he yelled.

Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

The nothingth of a second for which the hole existed reverberated backward and forward through time in a most improbable fashion. Somewhere in the deeply remote past it seriously traumatized a small random group of atoms drifting through the empty sterility of space and made them cling together in the most extraordinarily unlikely patterns. These patterns quickly learned to copy themselves (this was part of what was so extraordinary about the patterns) and went on to cause massive trouble on every planet they drifted on to. That was how life began in the Universe.

Related Characters: Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

“Can we work out,” said Zaphod, “from their point of view what the Improbability of their rescue was?”

“Yes, that’s a constant,” said Trillian, “two to the power of two hundred and seventy-six thousand, seven hundred and nine to one against.”

“That’s high. They’re two lucky lucky guys.”

“Yes.”

“But relative to what we were doing when the ship picked them up…”

Trillian punched up the figures. They showed two-to-the-power-of-Infinity-minus-one to one against (an irrational number that only has a conventional meaning in Improbability Physics).

Related Symbols: The Heart of Gold
Page Number: 101
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14 Quotes

The Heart of Gold fled on silently through the night of space, now on conventional photon drive. Its crew of four were ill at ease knowing that they had been brought together not of their own volition or by simple coincidence, but by some curious perversion of physics—as if relationships between people were susceptible to the same laws that governed the relationships between atoms and molecules.

As the ship’s artificial night closed in they were each grateful to retire to separate cabins and try to rationalize their thoughts.

Related Symbols: The Heart of Gold
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 24 Quotes

The car shot forward straight into the circle of light, and suddenly Arthur had a fairly clear idea of what infinity looked like.

It wasn’t infinity in fact. Infinity itself looks flat and uninteresting. Looking up into the night sky is looking into infinity—distance is incomprehensible and therefore meaningless. The chamber into which the aircar emerged was anything but infinite, it was just very very very big, so big that it gave the impression of infinity far better than infinity itself.

Related Characters: Arthur Dent, Slartibartfast
Related Symbols: Magrathea
Page Number: 160
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 31 Quotes

“Well, I mean, yes idealism, yes the dignity of pure research, yes the pursuit of truth in all its forms, but there comes a point I’m afraid where you begin to suspect that if there’s any real truth, it’s that the entire multidimensional infinity of the Universe is almost certainly being run by a bunch of maniacs. And if it comes to a choice between spending yet another ten million years finding that out, and on the other hand just taking the money and running, then I for one could do with the exercise.”

Related Characters: Frankie Mouse (speaker), Arthur Dent, Benjy Mouse
Page Number: 201
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy PDF

Arthur Dent Character Timeline in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The timeline below shows where the character Arthur Dent appears in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Language and Communication Theme Icon
One Thursday morning, Arthur Dent wakes up in his home, which looks out over a “broad spread of West... (full context)
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Arthur thinks about the previous night, recalling that he had been telling people about something important—something... (full context)
Improbability, Impossibility, and Absurdity Theme Icon
The construction foreman, Mr. L. Prosser, is not thrilled to see Arthur lying in front of his bulldozer. Adams describes him as a forty-year-old man who is... (full context)
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Arthur assures Prosser that he’s willing to stay in front of the bulldozer for a long... (full context)
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...have been “available in the local planning office for the last nine months.” “Oh yes,” Arthur replies, “well, as soon as I heard I went straight round to see them, yesterday... (full context)
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At this point, Adams takes a moment to discuss the fact that Arthur’s good friend, Ford Prefect, is “from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse.”... (full context)
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Ford stands over Arthur and asks if he’s busy. “Am I busy?” Arthur replies. “Well, I’ve just got all... (full context)
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Ford walks over to Prosser to convince him that he shouldn’t knock down Arthur’s house in their absence. “Has Mr. Dent come to his senses yet?” Prosser asks Ford.... (full context)
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Improbability, Impossibility, and Absurdity Theme Icon
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...finally agrees and situates himself in the mud. As they set off for the pub, Arthur asks if Prosser can be trusted. “Myself I’d trust him to the end of the... (full context)
Chapter 2
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Arriving at the pub, Ford orders six pints of beer—three a piece for Arthur and himself. “And quickly please,” he tells the bartender. “The world’s about to end.” He... (full context)
Chapter 3
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As Arthur and Ford drink, a fleet of “huge yellow chunky slablike somethings” move through the “ionosphere”... (full context)
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A crash sounds, but Ford tells Arthur not to worry. “They haven’t started yet,” he says. “It’s probably just your house being... (full context)
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Meanwhile, the “huge yellow machines” continue their descent. As Arthur runs toward his house yelling at the top of his lungs, he fails to notice... (full context)
Chapter 5
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...Vogon ships but hate the Vogons. As such, they have no problem helping Ford and Arthur sneak onto the ship as stowaways. As the spaceship hurdles away from what used to... (full context)
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Meanwhile, Arthur bombards Ford with questions. Finally, Ford hands him The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and... (full context)
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Ford explains why he was on Earth and tells Arthur that, unfortunately, the planet has been destroyed. He then urges Arthur to heed the guidebook’s... (full context)
Chapter 6
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With the fish in his ear, Arthur listens to Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz’s announcement: “I see from our instruments that we have a... (full context)
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Arthur realizes that, since Ford is a researcher for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, he... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...wretched verse—and a woman named Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings from Greenbridge, Essex, England. Now, as Arthur and Ford are strapped into torturous “Poetry Appreciation chairs,” Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz smiles and begins... (full context)
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Arthur continues to praise Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz’s poetry, even as Ford gapes at him in disbelief.... (full context)
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Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz considers for a moment the things Arthur and Ford have said about his poetry. “So what you’re saying is that I write... (full context)
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As the Vogon guard takes Ford and Arthur to the airlock, Ford tries to trick him into letting them go. Before long, he... (full context)
Chapter 8
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...against.” Interestingly enough, this figure is also “the telephone number of an Islington flat where Arthur once went to a very good party and met a very nice girl whom he... (full context)
Chapter 9
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On the spaceship that rescued Ford and Arthur, a computer babbles to itself “in alarm” because it senses that an airlock has opened... (full context)
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Ford and Arthur are confused to find that the inside of the spaceship that rescued them looks exactly... (full context)
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“Ford,” Arthur gasps, “you’re turning into a penguin.” The intercom voice then returns and recites another measure... (full context)
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Arthur!” Ford says. “This is fantastic! We’ve been picked up by a ship powered by the... (full context)
Chapter 11
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...depressed,” Marvin mutters. After some convincing, he finally leaves the cabin and goes looking for Arthur and Ford, who are beginning to feel a bit more normal, especially since their surroundings... (full context)
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“Come on,” Marvin says to Ford and Arthur, “I’ve been ordered to take you down to the bridge. Here I am, brain the... (full context)
Chapter 13
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When Arthur and Ford enter the Heart of Gold’s main cabin, Zaphod casually greets Ford in a... (full context)
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Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
After telling this story, Arthur is flabbergasted to find the woman who rejected him standing next to Zaphod. “You must... (full context)
Chapter 14
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...“let himself think about” something, but he doesn’t know what it is. As everybody but Arthur abandons the attempt to get some rest, they convene in the control room, where Trillian... (full context)
Chapter 16
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Arthur suddenly wakes up and finds Ford shouting at Zaphod. “You’re crazy, Zaphod,” says the wayward... (full context)
Chapters 17-18
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“Hey, this is terrific!” Zaphod shouts. “Someone down there is trying to kill us!” When Arthur asks him what he’s talking about, Zaphod points out that this means they “must be... (full context)
Chapters 19-20
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As the group (minus Arthur and Marvin, who remain above ground) stomps down a passageway, Ford asks Zaphod why he... (full context)
Chapter 21
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Improbability, Impossibility, and Absurdity Theme Icon
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On the surface of Magrathea, Arthur walks around feeling bored. To alleviate the tedium of waiting, he skims The Hitchhiker’s Guide... (full context)
Chapter 22
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“You choose a cold night to visit our dead planet,” says the old man Arthur has just walked into. He is wearing a long robe and standing by an “aircar.”... (full context)
Chapter 24
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When Arthur and Slartibartfast arrive on the factory floor deep inside Magrathea, Arthur looks with “a kind... (full context)
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Dumbfounded, Arthur asks if Slartibartfast made the Earth. “Oh yes,” the old man answers. “Did you ever... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Chapters 26-27
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After listening to Slartibartfast tell him this story about Deep Thought, Arthur admits he doesn’t understand what the tale has to do with Earth. Slartibartfast tells him... (full context)
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Using the Sens-O-Tape, Arthur drifts into a room where two men named Loonquawl and Pouchg address Deep Thought as... (full context)
Chapter 29
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While Arthur learns about the hyperintelligent pandimensional beings in Slartibartfast’s office, Trillian and Ford try to rouse... (full context)
Chapter 30
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Back in Slartibartfast’s office, Arthur and the old man discuss the fact that Deep Thought designed Earth, and that the... (full context)
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Slartibartfast tells Arthur that he won an award for designing Norway, but he doesn’t attach too much significance... (full context)
Chapter 31
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Slartibartfast brings Arthur to a waiting room, where he finds his friends feasting on an exquisite lunch. After... (full context)
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...ten million years in order to find this wretched thing called the Ultimate Question.” Interrupting, Arthur says, “Why?” In response, Frankie mouse says, “No—we already thought of that one, but it... (full context)
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...still need the Ultimate Question in some form or other.” They need something, they tell Arthur, that “sounds good.” This is why they need Arthur, who is “a last generation product... (full context)
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Arthur rears back in his chair as the mice try to convince him to give them... (full context)
Chapter 32
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...ship has landed on planet. Armed intruders in section 8A. Defense stations, defense stations!” As Arthur and his friends slip away, Benjy and Frankie complain to each other about their predicament,... (full context)
Chapter 33
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...cops’ guns go silent. Gradually emerging from behind their protective wall, Zaphod, Ford, Trillian, and Arthur discover that the cops have died because “the tiny life-support system computer” on their space... (full context)
Chapter 34
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When Arthur and his friends reach the surface of Magrathea once more in the aircraft, they find... (full context)
Chapter 35
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Later that night, the Heart of Gold speeds through space. To keep himself entertained, Arthur reads The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy—if he has to live in space, he figures,... (full context)