The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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Ford Prefect Character Analysis

Ford Prefect is an extraterrestrial being who landed on earth fifteen years before the planet’s destruction. Ford is from “a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse,” and is the distant cousin of the galaxy’s president, Zaphod Beeblebrox. Somebody who enjoys a good time, Ford originally came to earth in order to gather new information on the planet for an updated edition of the reference book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Unfortunately for him, though, he hasn’t been able to hitch a ride off the planet since he first arrived, since not very many aliens travel to earth. As such, he’s happy when the Vogons destroy the planet, giving him a chance to board their ship as a stowaway with his human friend, Arthur, whom he kindly saves. As they embark upon this adventure through space, Ford helps Arthur stay calm by telling him about life away from earth, though he doesn’t always give his poor human friend quite enough background information. To remedy this, he encourages Arthur to read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Ford Prefect Quotes in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy quotes below are all either spoken by Ford Prefect or refer to Ford Prefect. 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

“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 5 Quotes

One of the things Ford Prefect had always found hardest to understand about humans was their habit of continually stating and repeating the very very obvious, as in It’s a nice day, or You’re very tall, or Oh dear you seem to have fallen down a thirty-foot well, are you all right? At first Ford had formed a theory to account for this strange behavior. If human beings don’t keep exercising their lips, he thought, their mouths probably seize up. After a few months’ consideration and observation he abandoned this theory in favor of a new one. If they don’t keep on exercising their lips, he thought, their brains start working. After a while he abandoned this one as well as being obstructively cynical and decided he quite liked human beings after all, but he always remained desperately worried abut [sic] the terrible number of things they didn’t know about.

Related Characters: Ford Prefect
Page Number: 48
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:
Get the entire The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy PDF

Ford Prefect Character Timeline in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The timeline below shows where the character Ford Prefect appears in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
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.” Unbeknownst to Arthur,... (full context)
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Ford stands over Arthur and asks if he’s busy. “Am I busy?” Arthur replies. “Well, I’ve... (full context)
Power and Control Theme Icon
Improbability, Impossibility, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Ford walks over to Prosser to convince him that he shouldn’t knock down Arthur’s house in... (full context)
Power and Control Theme Icon
Improbability, Impossibility, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...for a quick [drink] yourself later on, we can always cover for you in return,” Ford says to Prosser. “Thank you very much,” Prosser says, confused but unwilling to admit it.... (full context)
Chapter 2
Meaninglessness and Happiness Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
Arriving at the pub, Ford orders six pints of beer—three a piece for Arthur and himself. “And quickly please,” he... (full context)
Chapter 3
Improbability, Impossibility, and Absurdity Theme Icon
As Arthur and Ford drink, a fleet of “huge yellow chunky slablike somethings” move through the “ionosphere” above Earth.... (full context)
Meaninglessness and Happiness Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
A crash sounds, but Ford tells Arthur not to worry. “They haven’t started yet,” he says. “It’s probably just your... (full context)
Power and Control Theme Icon
Since Ford is very far from his home planet, the bartender is overwhelmed by the signals he... (full context)
Power and Control Theme Icon
Improbability, Impossibility, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
...the world as people rush around and crane their necks to see the otherworldly ships. Ford, of course, knows what’s happening—his Sub-Etha Sens-O-Matic woke him up the night before, calling his... (full context)
Chapter 5
Power and Control Theme Icon
...on the 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... (full context)
Improbability, Impossibility, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Meanwhile, Arthur bombards Ford with questions. Finally, Ford hands him The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and tells him... (full context)
Power and Control Theme Icon
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Ford explains why he was on Earth and tells Arthur that, unfortunately, the planet has been... (full context)
Chapter 6
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Arthur realizes that, since Ford is a researcher for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, he must have been gathering... (full context)
Chapter 7
Power and Control Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...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 reciting one... (full context)
Meaninglessness and Happiness Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Arthur continues to praise Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz’s poetry, even as Ford gapes at him in disbelief. Soon, though, he begins to grasp at words, unable to... (full context)
Meaninglessness and Happiness Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
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 poetry because... (full context)
Meaninglessness and Happiness Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
As the Vogon guard takes Ford and Arthur to the airlock, Ford tries to trick him into letting them go. Before... (full context)
Chapter 8
Improbability, Impossibility, and Absurdity Theme Icon
...went off with a gate-crasher.” Despite the odds against their survival, Adams notes, Arthur and Ford are rescued twenty-nine seconds after getting ejected from the Vogon spaceship. (full context)
Chapter 9
Meaninglessness and Happiness Theme Icon
Improbability, Impossibility, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
On the spaceship that rescued Ford and Arthur, a computer babbles to itself “in alarm” because it senses that an airlock... (full context)
Improbability, Impossibility, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
Ford and Arthur are confused to find that the inside of the spaceship that rescued them... (full context)
Meaninglessness and Happiness Theme Icon
Improbability, Impossibility, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Ford,” Arthur gasps, “you’re turning into a penguin.” The intercom voice then returns and recites another... (full context)
Improbability, Impossibility, and Absurdity Theme Icon
“Arthur!” Ford says. “This is fantastic! We’ve been picked up by a ship powered by the Infinite... (full context)
Chapter 11
Meaninglessness and Happiness Theme Icon
...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 have at... (full context)
Meaninglessness and Happiness Theme Icon
“Come on,” Marvin says to Ford and Arthur, “I’ve been ordered to take you down to the bridge. Here I am,... (full context)
Chapter 13
Improbability, Impossibility, and Absurdity Theme Icon
When Arthur and Ford enter the Heart of Gold’s main cabin, Zaphod casually greets Ford in a purposefully nonchalant... (full context)
Chapter 14
Power and Control Theme Icon
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
...that they’re nearing the planet he has been wanting to find. This planet, he tells Ford, is “the most improbable planet that ever existed.” (full context)
Chapter 16
Meaninglessness and Happiness Theme Icon
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
Arthur suddenly wakes up and finds Ford shouting at Zaphod. “You’re crazy, Zaphod,” says the wayward hitchhiker. “Magrathea is a myth, a... (full context)
Chapters 19-20
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
As the group (minus Arthur and Marvin, who remain above ground) stomps down a passageway, Ford asks Zaphod why he wanted to find Magrathea in the first place. Zaphod answers by... (full context)
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
When Ford asks who Zaphod thinks did this to him, Zaphod says that the person burned their... (full context)
Chapter 29
Power and Control Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Power and Control Theme Icon
Improbability, Impossibility, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Knowledge and Exploration 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,... (full context)
Meaninglessness and Happiness 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... (full context)
Chapter 31
Power and Control Theme Icon
...lift off the table in their glass cases and start moving toward Arthur. Meanwhile, Trillian, Ford, and Zaphod try to pull Arthur away while opening the door. Unfortunately, a group of... (full context)
Chapter 33
Meaninglessness and Happiness Theme Icon
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
Without warning, the 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”... (full context)
Chapter 34
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...“dark and silent.” Like the cops themselves, it’s clear that this ship is dead. As Ford walks toward it, he finds Marvin, who is lying face-down on the ground. “Don’t feel... (full context)