The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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Zaphod Beeblebrox Character Analysis

Zaphod Beeblebrox is the two-headed president of the galaxy, and Ford Prefect’s distant cousin. Zaphod is purposefully suited for the role of president. This is because the job requires a person who is “controversial,” somebody who is both “infuriating” and “fascinating.” By the opening of the novel, Zaphod has already spent “two of his ten presidential years in prison for fraud.” Now, though, he’s excited to steal the Heart of Gold spaceship, which he uses to find the planet of Magrathea—an ancient planet nobody believes ever truly existed. When Zaphod’s girlfriend, Trillian, and Ford ask him why he wants to find Magrathea, he admits that he doesn’t know, explaining that before he became president, Yooden Vranx—the former president—visited him and told him that he should set out on this mission. However, Zaphod doesn’t know why Yooden wanted him to find Magrathea. This is because Zaphod went into his own brain and altered his memory so that the standard battery of psychological and neurological tests performed on incoming presidents wouldn’t reveal his plans to the government. As a result, though, he’s forced to blindly carry out some rather absurd jobs, though it’s worth noting that this doesn’t seem to bother him very much. Indeed, Zaphod is somebody who doesn’t mind “freewheel[ing],” somebody who is either very stupid or surprisingly clever.

Zaphod Beeblebrox Quotes in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy quotes below are all either spoken by Zaphod Beeblebrox or refer to Zaphod Beeblebrox. 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 4 Quotes

The President in particular is very much a figurehead—he wields no real power whatsoever. He is apparently chosen by the government, but the qualities he is required to display are not those of leadership but those of finely judged outrage. For this reason the President is always a controversial choice, always an infuriating but fascinating character. His job is not to wield power but to draw attention away from it. […] Very very few people realize that the President and the Government have virtually no power at all, and of these few people only six know whence ultimate power is wielded.

Related Characters: Zaphod Beeblebrox
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

He tapped irritably at a control panel. Trillian quietly moved his hand before he tapped anything important. Whatever Zaphod’s qualities of mind might include—dash, bravado, conceit—he was mechanically inept and could easily blow the ship up with an extravagant gesture. Trillian had come to suspect that the main reason he had had such a wild and successful life was that he never really understood the significance of anything he did.

Related Characters: Zaphod Beeblebrox, Trillian
Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

One of the major difficulties Trillian experienced in her relationship with Zaphod was learning to distinguish between him pretending to be stupid just to get people off their guard, pretending to be stupid because he couldn’t be bothered to think and wanted someone else to do it for him, pretending to be outrageously stupid to hide the fact that he actually didn’t understand what was going on, and really being genuinely stupid. He was renowned for being amazingly clever and quite clearly was so—but not all the time, which obviously worried him, hence the act. He preferred people to be puzzled rather than contemptuous. This above all appeared to Trillian to be genuinely stupid, but she could no longer be bothered to argue about it.

Related Characters: Zaphod Beeblebrox, Trillian
Page Number: 99
Explanation and Analysis:

“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

Zaphod Beeblebrox Character Timeline in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The timeline below shows where the character Zaphod Beeblebrox appears in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4
Power and Control Theme Icon
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
...of the Galaxy prepares for a public appearance on a far-off planet. His name is Zaphod Beeblebrox, and he’s about to unveil a new spaceship called the Heart of Gold. Zaphod... (full context)
Power and Control Theme Icon
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Zaphod—who has two heads and a third arm—speeds along in a boat, driving toward the location... (full context)
Power and Control Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Although the press is eager for Zaphod to give them a good quote, “one of the officials of the party” decides that... (full context)
Chapter 11
Improbability, Impossibility, and Absurdity Theme Icon
In the Heart of Gold’s main cabin, Zaphod and Trillian listen to the computerized voice read out measures of probability. “Four to one... (full context)
Meaninglessness and Happiness Theme Icon
...asks which government runs this spaceship, Marvin tells him that it has been stolen by Zaphod Beeblebrox, and something “extraordinary happen[s]” to Ford’s face, as “at least five entirely separate and... (full context)
Chapter 12
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Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
Back in the main cabin, Trillian asks Zaphod if he can find any hidden meaning in the coordinates where they accidentally picked up... (full context)
Meaninglessness and Happiness Theme Icon
Improbability, Impossibility, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
...the hitchhikers, pointing out that it’s in the same sector as where she originally joined Zaphod. “Hey, yeah,” he says, marveling at how coincidental this is, especially since they were—at the... (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 manner. “Ford, hi, how are you? Glad you... (full context)
Meaninglessness and Happiness Theme Icon
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
...this story, Arthur is flabbergasted to find the woman who rejected him standing next to Zaphod. “You must admit he did turn out to be from another planet,” says Trillian, referring... (full context)
Chapter 14
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Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
...two pet mice, whom she brought from earth in a cage. While she does this, Zaphod finds himself unable to sleep because he senses something strange going on in his mind.... (full context)
Chapter 16
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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 fairy story.” To... (full context)
Chapters 17-18
Improbability, Impossibility, and Absurdity Theme Icon
...the tone.” Trillian points out that the planet seems to want them to leave, but Zaphod ignores this, saying that it’s “just a recording.” (full context)
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
...would ask them to leave. Now.” In defiance of his fellow passengers’ desire to leave, Zaphod forges onward, eventually receiving a final message that politely informs everybody on the Heart of... (full context)
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
“Hey, this is terrific!” Zaphod shouts. “Someone down there is trying to kill us!” When Arthur asks him what he’s... (full context)
Chapters 19-20
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
...to care. In fact, they’re too preoccupied with the Heart of Gold’s new voice, which Zaphod explains he changed in the hopes of altering the system’s cloying personality. After a brief... (full context)
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
...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 saying that... (full context)
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
Continuing his monologue about the nature of his decision making, Zaphod explains that if he stops to think about why he has done something, he suddenly... (full context)
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
When Ford asks who Zaphod thinks did this to him, Zaphod says that the person burned their initials into his... (full context)
Chapter 21
Meaninglessness and Happiness Theme Icon
Improbability, Impossibility, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
...of waiting, he skims The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, reading a strange story about Zaphod himself, who once convinced a studious graduate student during a night of drinking to get... (full context)
Chapter 29
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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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
Chapter 31
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...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 heavily-armored Magratheans... (full context)
Chapter 32
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Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
...trying to escape. The “intruders” that have landed on Magrathea are “cops” trying to arrest Zaphod for stealing the Heart of Gold. Having cornered the group (who hides behind a wall),... (full context)
Chapter 33
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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... (full context)
Chapter 35
Meaninglessness and Happiness Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
Improbability, Impossibility, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
...eat? and the third by the question Where shall we have lunch?” As Arthur reads, Zaphod comes and asks if he’s hungry. When he says that he is, Zaphod says, “Okay,... (full context)