The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

by

Douglas Adams

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Themes

Themes and Colors
Meaninglessness and Happiness Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
Improbability, Impossibility, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Knowledge and Exploration Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Meaninglessness and Happiness

Throughout The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a story about a human man named Arthur who hitchhikes through space, many characters try to find meaning in their lives and search for the significance of their own existences. As they focus on discerning the meaning of life, though, their happiness decreases, and their efforts to eke out an existential purpose ultimately prevent them from enjoying life. By illustrating many fruitless attempts to formulate an understanding…

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Power and Control

The characters in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy frequently confront issues of power. For Arthur Dent, this means learning to accept that he is powerless against humanity’s apathetic bureaucracies and even more powerless in the face of the alien races he encounters after earth is destroyed. Adams frames authority and power as abstract and inaccessible. In the same way that Arthur can do little to stop the state from destroying his house and…

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Improbability, Impossibility, and Absurdity

In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the galaxy is a place where seemingly anything can happen. In fact, Adams goes out of his way to upend readers’ expectations about storytelling. To do this, he bases one of the novel’s most important plot points on a spaceship that operates according to improbability, impossibility, and coincidence. Although he goes through the motions of explaining how the spaceship’s “Improbability Drive” functions, his explanation relies heavily on…

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Knowledge and Exploration

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy often focuses on the pursuit of knowledge. Although Adams advocates for an acceptance of meaninglessness in the face of lofty existential questions, he also makes it clear that the impulse to explore such questions—to seek out knowledge—is a natural and inevitable part of being alive. In fact, he even suggests that this process of exploration and discovery is often more enticing than the act of actually settling on an…

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Language and Communication

Many linguistic interactions in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy accentuate the inherent shortcomings of language. Moreover, the characters’ failures to communicate effectively with one another demonstrate how difficult it can be to rely on language when trying to connect with others, especially when a conversation’s participants are faced with navigating cultural differences. This is because cultural differences often manifest themselves in language. However, Adams doesn’t simply frame language as something that is ineffectual and…

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