Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy challenges the norms of typical science fiction. It combines the elements of a classic space travel novel with the unapologetic imagination of an excited child and the nonsensical brilliance of Lewis Carrol. Adams finds plenty of Wonderland in the stars.
From the practical, English, Arthur to the dull Vogons or the two-headed Zaphod Beeblebrox, every character is fascinating, fun, and worth your time. Yet even though Douglas Adams obviously takes so much enjoyment in exploring the stars and his own imagination, he also takes every opportunity to use his characters and scenes as commentary on our own world. He asks big questions, explores existential themes, toying with the ideas we all have thought about, and playing with the people who might ask, “What is the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything?” Adams gives very little answer to any of these questions if only to give the Hitchhiker’s Guide itself and the words on the front that say calmly, “Don’t panic!”
If you have seen the movie rendition of this book but haven’t yet read the original, you’ll be happy to find that the movie actually follows the book quite closely. However, as always, the book is far better than the movie. The book spends far more time exploring its characters than the movie is able to, giving more time to side characters like Zaphod or the hilariously depressed robot Marvin.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy will subvert your expectations with every turn of the page, providing plenty of room in the meantime for the asking of the universe’s biggest questions.
Asking Deeper Questions About Life
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a hilarious book. Every single page is filled with unexpected imaginative shenanigans, and I love it. In one instance of the book, two missiles are suddenly turned into a large sperm whale and a bowl of petunias. Douglas Adams has his alien character Zaphod ask Arthur, the totally disoriented human, “Did you think of that, Earthman?” It almost feels like a question of Adams himself, asking his readers whether they saw his next move coming.
But the book is more than just a series of jokes. With each unexpected turn, Adams uses his fantastical imagery to explore profound questions about “Life, the Universe, and Everything.” In the scene with the missiles, Adams writes that the bowl of petunias suddenly thinks, “Oh, no. Not again.” This feels very humorous because, well, how on earth could we readers have guessed that the bowl of petunias was thinking anything at all? But Adams takes it one step further, writing, “Many people have speculated that if we knew exactly why the bowl of petunias had thought that we would know a lot more about the nature of the Universe than we do now.” Again, this statement is very funny, but it also urges us to think about the many unknowns in our world today and how everything would change if we just knew the answer.
Ultimately, Adam’s friendly guide to the galaxy brilliantly carries readers across the galaxy searching for answers to questions we ask on our seemingly ordinary Earth. I’m sure you’ve heard someone quote this story in saying that the answer to “Life, the Universe, and Everything” is 42. But in doing so, Adams admits that we may not know the answers to every question.
In our own faith, it can be challenging to trust that there are answers to our questions, even if we never get to know what they are. Following the Lord usually means taking steps without knowing the outcome. It can be very scary—it’s why Adams’s antagonists in his book go crazy in frustration of trying to find answers. The Lord urges us instead to trust, to “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10), knowing that His will and His answers are far superior to anything we could ever construct.
Hi, I’m Andy! I am a student at Ouachita Baptist University who writes stories and plays guitar in between classes. The puzzle and mystery of languages fascinate me and inspire me to dig deeper. I love to learn and experience God’s creation and share what I have found with others.