The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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The Heart of Gold Symbol Analysis

The Heart of Gold Symbol Icon

Because the Heart of Gold spaceship is powered by the “Infinite Improbability Drive,” it naturally represents the strange and “improbable” things that happen in life and, of course, the novel itself. As Trillian and Zaphod fly through space in this aircraft, they try to calculate the measures of improbability that fuel the ship, but they find themselves unable to do so because they eventually arrive at an “irrational number that only has a conventional meaning in Improbability Physics.” In this way, the notion of improbability in the novel remains abstract and unfathomable. In turn, readers’ inability to fully grasp the logic underlying this central plot point forces them to proceed through the story with a certain suspension of disbelief. In this way, the Heart of Gold comes to represent not only improbability, but also the idea of accepting uncertainty.

The Heart of Gold 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 The Heart of Gold. 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 10 Quotes

The principle of generating small amounts of finite improbability by simply hooking the logic circuits of a Bambleweeny 57 Sub-Meson Brain to an atomic vector plotter suspended in a strong Brownian Motion producer (say a nice hot cup of tea) were of course well understood […]. [One] thing [scientists] couldn’t stand was the perpetual failure they encountered in trying to construct a machine which could generate the infinite improbability field needed to flip a spaceship across the mind-paralyzing distances between the farthest stars, and in the end they grumpily announced that such a machine was virtually impossible.

Then, one day, a student […] found himself reasoning this way:

If, he thought to himself, such a machine is a virtual impossibility, then it must logically be a finite improbability. So all I have to do in order to make one is to work out exactly how improbable it is, feed that figure into the finite improbability generator, give it a fresh cup of really hot tea…and turn it on!

Related Symbols: The Heart of Gold
Page Number: 86
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:
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:
Get the entire The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy PDF

The Heart of Gold Symbol Timeline in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Heart of Gold 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
...His name is Zaphod Beeblebrox, and he’s about to unveil a new spaceship called the Heart of Gold . Zaphod has been looking forward to this day ever since he became president. In... (full context)
Power and Control Theme Icon
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...third arm—speeds along in a boat, driving toward the location where he will unveil the Heart of Gold . Zooming up on his speedboat, he dazzles the crowd, which is actually just a... (full context)
Power and Control Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...turned speech.” As such, this official flips a switch in his pocket and unveils the Heart of Gold . It is shaped like a “sleek running shoe, perfectly white and mind-bogglingly beautiful.” At... (full context)
Chapter 9
Meaninglessness and Happiness Theme Icon
Improbability, Impossibility, and Absurdity Theme Icon
...his part, notices that his limbs are detaching from his body. “Welcome to the Starship Heart of Gold ,” says the voice. “Please do not be alarmed by anything you see or hear... (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... (full context)
Meaninglessness and Happiness Theme Icon
...the recognizable interior of a spaceship. Ford even finds a sales brochure that advertises the Heart of Gold ’s most impressive features. “They make a big thing of the ship’s cybernetics,” he remarks,... (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... (full context)
Chapter 14
Power and Control Theme Icon
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
As the Heart of Gold speeds through “the night of space,” its passengers have trouble sleeping. To pass the time,... (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... (full context)
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
...leave, Zaphod forges onward, eventually receiving a final message that politely informs everybody on the Heart of Gold that there are now two guided missiles making their way toward the spaceship. (full context)
Meaninglessness and Happiness Theme Icon
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
The crew on the Heart of Gold discovers that the Improbability Drive has turned the missiles into a sperm whale and a... (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... (full context)
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
...to find Magrathea in the first place. Zaphod answers by saying that he stole the Heart of Gold “to look for a lot of things,” including the planet. Ultimately, though, he doesn’t actually... (full context)
Chapter 29
Meaninglessness and Happiness Theme Icon
Improbability, Impossibility, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
...Zaphod reveals that Yooden visited him right before he died and told him about the Heart of Gold . “It was his idea that I should steal it,” he adds. This, it seems,... (full context)
Chapter 32
Meaninglessness and Happiness Theme Icon
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
...“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), the cops yell at Zaphod... (full context)
Chapter 34
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...Magrathea once more in the aircraft, they find the police spaceship parked next to the Heart of Gold . Oddly enough, it looks “dark and silent.” Like the cops themselves, it’s clear that... (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
Later that night, the Heart of Gold speeds through space. To keep himself entertained, Arthur reads The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy—if... (full context)