The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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Magrathea Symbol Icon

The planet of Magrathea comes to stand for the kind of merciless greed that all too often plagues civilizations. Magrathea is an ancient planet populated by a species that made itself rich by designing custom-built luxury planets for wealthy clients. This market first arose when the Galactic economy was booming. As a result of the thriving market, almost everybody became quite rich. However, this unfortunately caused people to feel “rather dull and niggly,” thereby prompting them to examine their lives. What they determined when they turned a critical eye on their existences was that they weren’t happy with their home planets, so they started commissioning Magratheans to build them new ones that would satisfy their newly unquenchable desires. In this way, the planet also represents the ways in which wealth can corrupt happiness by providing people with the opportunity to endlessly pursue lives that seem—but aren’t necessarily—better than the ones they’re currently leading. Perfectly willing to exploit this niche market, the people of Magrathea set to work, eventually becoming so financially successful that they inadvertently threw the rest of the Galaxy into “abject poverty.” Because nobody could afford their services anymore, the Magratheans decided to hibernate until the economy regained its strength. This, of course, is a somewhat unethical decision, one that suggests Magratheans only care about money and not the wellbeing of individuals throughout the Galaxy.

Magrathea Quotes in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy quotes below all refer to the symbol of Magrathea. 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 15 Quotes

Many men of course became extremely rich, but this was perfectly natural and nothing to be ashamed of because no one was really poor—at least no one worth speaking of. And for all the richest and most successful merchants life inevitably became rather dull and niggly, and they began to imagine that this was therefore the fault of the worlds they’d settled on. None of them was entirely satisfactory: either the climate wasn’t quite right in the later part of the afternoon, or the day was half an hour too long, or the sea was exactly the wrong shade of pink.

And thus were created the conditions for a staggering new form of specialist industry: custom-made luxury planet building. The home of this industry was the planet Magrathea, where hyperspatial engineers sucked matter through white holes in space to form it into dream planets—gold planets, platinum planets, soft rubber planets with lots of earthquakes—all lovingly made to meet the exacting standards that the Galaxy’s richest men naturally came to expect.

Related Symbols: Magrathea
Page Number: 116
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapters 17-18 Quotes

This is a complete record of [the sperm whale’s] thought from the moment it began its life till the moment it ended it.

Ah…! What’s happening? it thought.

Er, excuse me, who am I?

Hello?

Why am I here? What’s my purpose in life?

What do I mean by who am I?

Calm down, get a grip now…oh! this is an interesting sensation, what is it? It’s a sort of…yawning, tingling sensation in my…my…well, I suppose I’d better start finding names for things if I want to make any headway in what for the sake of what I shall call an argument I shall call the world, so let’s call it my stomach.

[…] What’s this thing? This…let’s call it a tail—yeah, tail. Hey! I can really thrash it about pretty good, can’t I? Wow! Wow! That feels great! Doesn’t seem to achieve very much but I’ll probably find out what it’s for later on. Now, have I built up any coherent picture of things yet?

Related Symbols: Magrathea, The Heart of Gold
Page Number: 134
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:
Get the entire The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy PDF

Magrathea Symbol Timeline in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The timeline below shows where the symbol Magrathea appears in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 15
Meaninglessness and Happiness Theme Icon
Adams provides an excerpt from The Guide’s entry for a planet called Magrathea. In “ancient times,” it reads, the Galaxy was rich. In fact, people became so wealthy... (full context)
Chapter 16
Meaninglessness and Happiness Theme Icon
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
...wakes up and finds Ford shouting at Zaphod. “You’re crazy, Zaphod,” says the wayward hitchhiker. “Magrathea is a myth, a fairy story.” To prove that they are indeed orbiting Magrathea, Zaphod... (full context)
Chapters 17-18
Improbability, Impossibility, and Absurdity Theme Icon
As the Heart of Gold glides ever closer to Magrathea, a transmission from the ghostly planet—which has been inactive for 5,000,000 years—plays over the ship’s... (full context)
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
The spaceship draws closer to Magrathea, and another recorded message sounds over the speakers: “We would like to assure you that... (full context)
Meaninglessness and Happiness Theme Icon
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...a sperm whale and a bowl of petunias, respectively. As the sperm whale careens toward Magrathea, it springs into thought, thinking, “Why am I here? What’s my purpose in life?” Gradually,... (full context)
Chapters 19-20
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
The Heart of Gold lands safely on Magrathea. As everybody prepares to venture onto the planet’s surface, Trillian discovers that her pet mice... (full context)
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
...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 he stole the Heart of Gold... (full context)
Chapter 21
Meaninglessness and Happiness Theme Icon
Improbability, Impossibility, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
On the surface of Magrathea, Arthur walks around feeling bored. To alleviate the tedium of waiting, he skims The Hitchhiker’s... (full context)
Chapter 22
Power and Control Theme Icon
...is wearing a long robe and standing by an “aircar.” He tells Arthur that the Magratheans have been sleeping since the crash of the Galactic economy 5,000,000 years ago. Since custom-built... (full context)
Chapter 24
Improbability, Impossibility, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
When Arthur and Slartibartfast arrive on the factory floor deep inside Magrathea, Arthur looks with “a kind of wonderful horror” at the magnificent and odd things suspended... (full context)
Chapter 29
Power and Control Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 31
Meaninglessness and Happiness Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
...the planet early for a quick holiday, and have since manipulated our way back to Magrathea by the good offices of your friends.” Magrathea, Benjy interjects, is a “gateway” back to... (full context)
Chapter 32
Meaninglessness and Happiness Theme Icon
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
“Emergency! Emergency!” a voice blares over Magrathea. “Hostile ship has landed on planet. Armed intruders in section 8A. Defense stations, defense stations!”... (full context)
Chapter 33
Meaninglessness and Happiness Theme Icon
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
...on their space suits has malfunctioned (these cops are methane-breathing creatures that can’t survive on Magrathea). “Let’s get shot of this hole,” says Zaphod. “If whatever I’m supposed to be looking... (full context)
Chapter 34
Language and Communication Theme Icon
When Arthur and his friends reach the surface of Magrathea once more in the aircraft, they find the police spaceship parked next to the Heart... (full context)