April 30,2019

Dear class,

Here is your writing prompt:

Choose two to three themes that Douglas Adams explores in Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy, and write one paragraph related to the theme, along with evidence from the text.  I would like to know how you see the author (for example) discussing “politics” in an imaginary cosmos. Or how does he speak of “language” while depicting a universe where multitudes of creatures cohabit. (Minimum 200 words).

Please mention the theme before your paragraph and if there is any other theme you feel like exploring and it’s not listed below, do not hesitate to go ahead with it.

Communication

Despair

Perspective

Absurdity

Power and Politics

Language

Nature of Life/existence

Philosophy

Environment

Intelligence

Technology

Survival

Bring your hard copies underlined and explored and torn and stained with tea, coffee and chocolate.

Enjoy your break!

Riazi

26 Comments

  1. Technology
    The theme of technology is evident throughout the reading of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, as it an older text and they were not as advanced back in the 80’s when it was written. For example, on page 53 Ford hands Arthur an electronic book entitled “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”. Ford explains to him that this book will tell him everything he needs to know about anything leaving Arthur in awe. This theme plays an important role in the text as Arthur is from earth and discovers a new planet through the use of technology, the Vogons spaceship. As I was reading, I was paying close attention to how the story was written. The author, Douglas Adams, envisioned quite a weird scene but it almost seems to flow effortlessly. It is easy to imagine the scene in your head as you read, and it is written as if it just an ordinary, drunken day in the main character’s life.

    Despair
    Despair is quite a common theme for the main character Arthur. In the beginning of the story, he sits hopelessly in front of the bulldozers threatening to demolish his house in order to build a bypass. Ford appears, who reveals to Arthur that he is an alien, tells him that planet Earth is going to be destroyed and that he can save him. Throughout the text, it is seen even more frequently. On page 59, they hear a noise that seems to be coming from the Vogon Captain. Vogons, an alien species, are responsible for the destruction of Earth in order to build the bypass. Arthur panics as he doesn’t speak the Vogon language and finds himself curled up into a ball whilst listening to the frightening message left by the captain. As you continue reading, the bizarre scenes written by Douglas Adams all come together as the puzzle pieces begin to fit. Although The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is a peculiar reading, I feel as if the author used many analogies to suggest that Earth outside of the text was struggling. On page 3, it is mentioned that many were concerned with the small green paper and were unhappy. This may be the reason for the drunken state of Arthur, as he was unhappy and possibly struggling with his finances.

    1. Very interesting point Briana: “envisioned quite a weird scene but it almost seems to flow effortlessly.” I also agree that Adam’s writing so easily builds an incredibly believable universe in all its complexity.

      Great note Brianna!

  2. Power & Politics:
    The theme of Power & Politics is portrayed throughout the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. It is first evident at the start of the story when Mr. Prosser informs Arthur that the plans to build the bypass have been displayed for months. It turns out Arthur had to go down to a dark cellar with a flash light and look for it in a locked filing cabinet. This shows a politics & deceit hand in hand. This same deceit was also displayed later on in the story with the vogans wanting to destroy earth. Supposedly their plans were also on display but humans did not see it. It was purposely hidden to deceit humans and gain power.
    Additionally, the part describing how Zaphod Beeblebrox’s antics made the small robot Tri-D camera very popular reminded me of todays Presidential Antics. Specifically Trump and Twitter. Trump is great at drawing attention or deflecting attention and Zaphod is portrayed in the same way. It’s ironic to see the author portray politics as sneaky and deceitful and be able to connect that with the state of our current politics.

    Language & Intelligence:
    Ford is very smart. He uses language and reverse psychology to fool people. In the beginning of the story he gets Arthur to leave with him to the bar in exchange he talks/ confuses Mr. Prosser to lay in front of the bulldozer. He uses his language/ reverse psychology again to trick the Vogon. He asks the Vogon about if he really enjoys his job of taking orders and capturing & scaring captives. He questions the vogons every minute and makes him doubt himself and realize he feels pretty lousy. This shows how language and intelligence are used in manipulation.

    Manipulation:
    I feel like the author shows manipulation as a theme tied in several other themes. He shows manipulation within power & politics & Language. Purposely making it impossible for the people to see the plans for the bypass, using the Tri-D camera as a tool to get to the people. Reminding the Vogon that he’s actually miserable at times doing his job. The author used manipulation as a tool throughout.

    1. Great point about the role of president. I thought the same reading it Jenise. Especially the part about how president is there to distract attention from the power. (paraphrasing).

      Very interesting point about Ford and reverse psychology, I never thought about it before. Another interesting and charming trait about Ford to me was the fact that he does not get humor, in addition to not understanding earthlings’ repetition of words and meaningless phrases.

  3. Intelligence/communication – Dolphins were very intelligent and were trying to communicate with humans. However, because of human’s own infatuation with itself and our thinking that we are the smartest, we also put down those who are seen as less smart just because they are different from us. Instead of trying to decipher and understand the dolphin’s language and methodologies, we brush it off and in doing so cause our own deaths when they were trying to warn us. “Curiously enough, the dolphins had long known of the impending destruction of the planet Earth and had made many attempts to alert mankind of the danger; but most of their communications were misinterpreted.” By saying this, it is saying that we humans are not as intelligent as we may think we are. Instead of collecting together to figure anything out, we are too into the idea that the world revolves around us. No matter what other people tell us to do we only hear them as the dolphin’s way of communicating and cannot understand it, thus causing our own destruction when the communication is a warning.

    Power and Politics – The cops. They claim that they are not the type of cops to go around in bars to drink and spout about how their life is, about how they are good people and instead are authors and important people. Yet, “Now either you all give yourselves up now and let us beat you up a bit, though not very much of course because we are firmly opposed to needless violence, or we blow up this entire planet and possible one or two others we noticed on our way here!” And then proceed to continue shooting despite the fact that they do not want to shoot. This, in a way, is a way of saying that cops are infatuated with themselves, claiming that what they do is always good and always correct even if one or two innocent planets get hurt. This is also in a way saying that even if cops are good, their methods of doing certain actions provide the same results as one can take many paths to get to the same place.

    1. Robin-
      I really enjoyed your details analysis about intelligence/ communication. I honestly missed this in the story. Dolphins are very smart and I did not realize that they were trying to communicate with the humans. This story was difficult for me, it’s not whst I’m usef to. I had to go back an read again. The dry humor made it even more difficult to keep up with. Your details have made it more understandable for me.

  4. Communication
    Poetry is ranked depending on how dangerous the type. From least to most dangerous comes Vogon, Azagoth and Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings. Vogon reads his poetry to Arthur and Ford while both are strapped into “Poetry Appreciation Chairs” (Page 66) and other devices to ensure the poetry is heard. Both are suffering, forced to listen to the poetry. Vogon is trying to communicate and share his poetry but with a forced captive audience his poetry is heard as awful instead of “evolved and cultured” (Page 66).

    Survival
    Vogon gives Arthur and Ford two options either be thrown out the airlock or give him good feedback on his poetry. “Arthur said brightly: ‘I actually quite liked it’ ‘I thought that some of the metaphysical imagery was really effective’” (Page 68). He gives a thorough response to seem interested in his poetry but Vogon still doesn’t believe Arthur’s compliments and orders them thrown off the ship. The Vogon guard escorting both off the ship but Arthur pleas trying to convince the guard that they shouldn’t be thrown into an airlock but there thrown out of the airlock anyway. In an attempt to survive, Arthur tries to relate and talk his way out of desperate situations.

  5. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy
    One of the main themes that were presented in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy” by Douglas Adams is power and politics. Politics plays a huge role throughout the story because there are characters in the story like for example, Mr. Prosser and the Galactic President role. Mr. Prosser is a bureaucratic man, at the beginning of the story we get the background information on his ancestors how he is related to Genghis Khan through intervening generations. Genghis Khan is known to be the founder of the Mongol Empire and he had created the largest empire that lasted for centuries. Mr. Prosser is determined to destroy Dent’s home only because he believes that there has to be built a bypass. However, the bypass wasn’t convenient it seemed to be something that Mr. Prosser demanded.
    The second theme that was presented is Despair because the story starts off with the main character Arthur Dent realizing that Mr. Prosser is about to bulldoze his house down. At the beginning of the story, we see Dent stomping around his house frantically checking every corner of the house and he sees bulldozers. “He took a swig of water. It would sort itself out, he’d decided, no one wanted a bypass, the council didn’t have a leg to stand on. It would sort itself out”. ( page 7). In this line, it shows how he is trying to process all the feelings he has currently going on.

  6. Philosophy
    One theme which is present in Douglas Adams Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy would be that of philosophy. Philosophy is present through an allusion and critique of René Descartes ontological argument found in Principles of Philosophy, which is that the idea of God is that of a perfect being and it is more perfect to exist than not to which means God must exist. Instead of the proof of god existing, they drew a page from the philosophical logic of Descartes and rework his idea to prove the non-existence of god. The author makes use of the fictional Babel fish, which provides the user the ability to communicate and understand all different races and cultures, as the means to prove the non-existence of god. The argument is presented with God refusing to prove his own existence due to proof denying faith and without faith god is nothing. Man responds that because the Babel fish could not have evolved by chance, it proves god exists which means that by gods own argument he does not exist. Through this take on philosophical, Adams seems to be poking fun at the misuse of philosophical logic which can be seen after in the arrogant attempt to prove black is white, only to be killed at a zebra crossing. Through this consideration of philosophical logic and arguments, it is as if the author is attempting to address the nature of flawed arguments and their subsequent misapplied use in regards to life and the yearn to understand the universe.

    Technology
    Throughout the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, technology is a major theme which is present that seems to critique the modern life at the time while addressing advancements in technology and their shortcomings. Much of the technology which is introduced is the creation of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation. Some examples of technology include that of the GPP (Genuine People Personalities) which is applied to the robots and the doors. While these inventions were very advanced at the time of this novel’s conception, the introduction of them provides disadvantages as well. With the introduction of the Genuine People Personalities prototype robot Marvin, the highly advanced technology is stricken with a deeply pessimistic outlook upon everything to the point of continually asking “I’m not getting you down at all am I?” This is paired with the general disinterest and dissatisfaction of Marvin as seen in his statement, “Here I am, brain the size of a planet and they ask me to take you down to the bridge. Call that job satisfaction? ‘Cos I don’t.” These characteristics of draw upon the theme of technology and the undependable aspects of the advanced technology which is present throughout the novel. Marvin also speaks negatively of fellow robotic creations such as that of the door. This is seen in the irony circuits he utilizes while speaking about the doors with the statement, “All the doors in the spaceship have a cheerful and sunny disposition. It is their pleasure to open for you, and their satisfaction to close again with the knowledge of a job well done.” The general dislike present in Marvin’s actions are seen directly through the way he speaks of the doors and the intolerable air of smugness it generates when it is about to open. Ultimately, the advancement of technology which is present throughout this novel draws upon its highly progressive manner, while critiquing its inadequate effectiveness.

    1. Good writing, choice and rationale along with evidence.

      Interesting that you made a connection with Decartes’s trademark argument, it didn’t occur to me before.

      I also agree that Marvin is one of the most interesting characters of the story. I often see that character as the embodiment of pessimism in an inconceivably intelligent mind who is constantly bored and dissatisfied with their surroundings. I can recall many interesting and intelligent human beings around me who possess those qualities.

  7. Absurdity / Language

    Absurdity is a theme in Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy that pops up in many ways. Absurdity in the books is in the form of unusual and strange occurrence especially in the eyes of a human. For example, when it is mentioned that a towel is the most important item a hitchhiker can have, it can define the person as being a forced to be reckoned with. The description of the importance of having a towel is mixed in with the absurd language used to describe it. For example, Adams uses words like “strag” meaning non-hitch-hiker and “sass” and “frood”. Language and absurdity are reoccurring throughout the book when different life-forms and planets are introduced.

    Nature of Life/existence

    Nature of life is also a theme I acknowledged when reading hitchhikers guide to the galaxy because when you hitchhike or explore other places you are observing nature of life. In life there are political and power structures that we not only saw in human life but with the Vogan race as well. The irony when Arthur’s house was going to be knocked down and when the planet was about meet the same demise was an example of the nature of life. Evolution is also brought up in the book when talking about the Vogan race and how evolution did not serve them well. The Vogans were not supposed to survive but the strong made it through and their existence is still around and now very powerful. For humans Arthur is now the only human who exists.

    1. Very interesting Rachel. I also highlighted the “towel” part. Have you read anything by absurdist playwrights? I recommend namely Eugene Ionesco (Bald Soprano, Rhinoceros), Samuel Beckett (Waiting for Godot), Harold Pinter (Birthday party). These are all plays and mostly a result of cold war (50s, 60s Europe). It is argues that Edward Albee (Zoo story and many other great plays) it’s also an absurdist playright (He is american). But the play with language and vacating it of meaning was mostly evident in European coldwar playwritghts. Take a look at the if you had a chance, they are so much fun.

  8. Intelligence: It seems that the other races in the galaxy are more advanced in terms of technology but they have a very odd. First off the humans of Earth were rather clueless about what to do about the giant ship like object hovering over them. The Vogons were flustered with the humans lack of intelligence for not even being able to travel 4 light years to Alpha Centauri to see the local planning office. Later on Arthur and Ford were tied down and forced to hear the Vogon’s poetry. This was suppose to be the a cruel punishment, but Arthur thought nothing of it. Arthur just considered this is nonsense and approved his poetry. The intelligence is weird in the sense that the Vogons were supposed to be the advanced species but they have a weird but simplistic punishment of listening to poetry

    Absurdity: Alot of the stuff mentioned in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was funny and how absurd they made things seem. Things such as the Vogon’s Poetry Appreciation as a form of torture, that is the 3rd worst poetry ever created seemed pretty absurd coming from a human from Earth perspective. The idea of putting out a thumb to hitch a ride on the space ship which called in the book as the “electronic sub-etha signalling device” is odd but somehow worked out for them. The “Babel Fish” was another thing that just seemed odd because it was a fish that once put into the ear makes it so you can understand all languages. Clearly the stuff described in the book seem absurd and most of it does sound a bit ludicrous like a fish that you can put in your ear and understand all the languages.

  9. Survival
    In The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, the author Douglas Adams explores a lot of different themes throughout the book, one of the themes is survival. The narrator mentions the importance of a towel to an interstellar hitch hiker, and says that in the actual book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, there is some information about towels. Following this, we get examples of the many different ways a hitch hiker can use a towel to their advantage and many of these are key points for survival ”A towel, it says is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have. […] use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to- hand-combat; …” (p. 28)
    Absurdity
    This specific theme Absurdity stood out to me right away in the beginning when Arthur is laying on the floor preventing the bulldozer to keep going to destroy his house and his friend Ford Prefect somehow managed to get Mr Prosser, the person sent from the council to make sure the house gets destroyed, to lay down on the floor instead of Arthur and that they will be back. Maybe it was the wording or perhaps the fact that Mr Prosser does not seem to be alright in the head, but how can one agree to something like that. ””And no sneaky knocking down Mr. Dent’s house whilst he’s away, alright?” he said. ”the mere thought,” growled Mr Prosser, ”hadn’t even begun to speculate,” he continued, settling himself back, ”about the merest possibility of crossing my mind.” (p.21)

  10. Survival
    In the Hitch Hickers Guide to the Galaxy survival is the largest them for the character Authur Dent and Ford Prefect. The author shows Authur as the last creature from the planet earth who is rescued why Ford when earth was going to be destroyed in the bypass that was to be made. There is another part in which the Vogan captain tells them to choose either tell him how amazing his poetry is or have them thrown out of the chip. Authur choose to say he liked it in order to maybe save himself and Ford.

    Technology
    Techonology is advance for outer space and not so much on earth. You can see this when the Captain mentions that the plans for the construction of the bypass has been on the planning department of Alpha Centuari as if human could travel to it like the other creatures of the galaxy. Also the ability that other aliens can travel to and from earth but earthling cant travel further then the moon.The author also mention the fascination of digital watches which in the 80s it was a amazing idea but today in present day its something common.

  11. Survival (through manipulation)
    Within Douglas Adam’s novel of a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, various examples of the theme of survival were exploited and played with. I found that much of this novel revolved around survival whether it was for humans or aliens. The first example would be when Mr. Prosser tried knocking down Arthur’s home in order to make a bypass. Arthur had fought for his right to live by laying in front of his home to stop the bulldozer from wrecking through. Arthur’s friend Ford Perfect connivingly convinced Mr. Prosser to take Arthur’s place laying down while they both went to the pub. Ford and Arthur manipulated Mr. Prosser by telling him that Arthur will never accept the idea of allowing the bulldozer through and therefore will refuse to let it and by accepting that no work will be done on their part, as long as someone does not allow it. Through this “logical” word play, Ford manipulated Mr. Prosser into taking Arthur’s place in the mud in front of the house, buying some time for the two to discuss the real problem that is coming. Further on into the story, we find that Arthur and Ford are caught by the Vogons, the aliens destroying earth, on their ship and are threatened to be thrown off and tortured with poetry. To survive this situation, Arthur and Ford show fake appreciation and admiration towards the spoken poetry to manipulate the Vogon’s attitudes and create a positive relation so that it will not kill them. All this shows the lengths that someone will go to save themselves.

    Power and Politics
    Another frequently visited theme in Douglas Adam’s novel is power and politics. Many authoritative roles are presented throughout the reading that can be perceived as abuse of power. The example would be Mr. Prosser position, a local councilman who oversaw the bypass project. Through the debate of knocking over Arthur’s house, Mr. Prosser defended that Arthur should have been well informed and plans could not be undone at the last moment. He mentions that Mr.Prosser does things out of convenience and remains unaffected by any changes. This shows the power that he has on the land and little regard to what happens to anyone who isn’t himself. These roles are later switch from aliens to humans when the Vogon Planning Council informs the people of earth that they should have been fully aware of earth’s demolition as it was posted through the local planning department, in outer space, and nothing could be undone at the last moment. Another clearly authoritative role is of the Galactic President. The reading demonstrates various examples of political power and abuse of power when it said the President holds almost no real power but uses its position to attract attention away from it. It also mentions the marvelous Presidents quote, “That really is truly amazing. That is so amazingly amazing that I think I’d like to steal it.”, a popular idea that is often seen in politics today.

  12. Language
    The theme of language is portrayed throughout the Hitchhicker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The character’s failures to communicate effectively with one another demonstrates how difficult it can be to rely on language when trying to connect with one another. Adams doesn’t frame language as something that is destined to fail but exemplifies that language can showcase the ways in which somebody can use intelligent rhetoric to his or her benefit. Through his examination of the ways in which people communicate, Adams challenges readers to avoid taking language for granted

    Absurdity
    Absurdity is another major theme that is evolved in the novel. Throughout the novel, things seems to happen randomly without cause or meaning. Some of the examples in the novel were unlikely to come true, while others had no reason at all. These shifts in point of view were thoroughly confusing for readers. An example is a small yellow fish becomes a useful means of communication as well as the cause of bloody wars and a proof against God’s existence. An ordinary towel becomes the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.

  13. Perspective: Absurdity

    In Douglas Adams “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” Absurdity cases showcased a few times. From the characters Zaphod Beeblebrox or Ford Prefect. In the Vorgons who entire spices purpose is to run the bureaucracy of the galactic government. They are entire spices that embody absurdity. In the start the novel we are treated to how the distraction of Arthur Dent’s home mirrors the eventual destruction of Earth. Both in Arthur case and the planets, an unfeeling bureaucracy is just doing their jobs and give similar statements about how plans for the demolition were available for “everyone” to see. Earth human Mr Prosser states “the plans have been available in the local planning office for the last nine months”(pg 8) or as Vorgon Prostetnic Vogue Jeltz put it “been on display in your local planning department in Alpha Centauri for fifty of your Earth years” (pg 35) The sense of an entire galaxy full of absurdity does make you question if we only think is absurd because of our own views of what life is and how the galaxy functions. So if everything seems absurd to us is it because of own perspective that makes it so? But also if you shift your perspective to that everything is normal for the exception of the earthing who is saying things are absurd then who is really absurd?

    1. Hello Warren,
      I really like the questions you raised about perspective. Perspective is subjective and when you connect the themes perspective and absurdity in hitchhikers guide to the galaxy you can see how perspective works with absurdity for us to see something as absurd. As humans anything abnormal is considered absurd and since we are watching Arthur who is the only human experience all these absurdities we can relate to him because we share a similar perspective on life and the universe. we know life as being (1+1=2) but this book changes what we think we know. (1+1=3)?

  14. Absurdity
    The theme of Absurdity is portrayed in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. It is evident mainly on page 57 because Ford tells Arthur that he has to put a fish in his ear. Arthur is confused because he doesn’t know what its use is for. When an announcement was being made, Arthur couldn’t understand Vogon. Ford slips the fish in Arthur’s ear, and Arthur can perfectly understand Vogon and the instructions by the Captain. He also uses the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to get a better understanding. “If you stick a Babel fish in your ear you can understand anything said to you in any form of language” With this it shows how different we are as humans with understanding different languages because we may use Google Translate as our “fish” to understand people from all over the world.

    Survival
    The theme of portrayal was also portrayed in the The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Ford and Arthur were captured by Vogons because it was noticed that there were a few hitchhikers aboard. Survival was evident on pages 66-67 because they had two options which were to be thrown into space or listen to the Vogon’s poetry. Although Ford hated the poetry, Arthur made it appear that the poetry wasn’t that bad. When they were going to get thrown out, the Vogon changed his mind because death would’ve been too easy for them. Surprisingly, although Arthur was not from there, he used persuasion to get out of certain situations and had that advantage to change the Vogon guards minds.

    1. Samantha,

      It was interesting to see his in modern times we have developed our own babble fish in Google translate and in other apps. I can also see how we might have developed our own hitchhiker’s guide with our phones. Often we look to our phone to inform us and sometimes keep us calm.

  15. Power and Politics
    The president of the Imperial Galatic Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox, performs his duties much like his counterparts on Earth. Beeblebrox is enlightened yet somewhat in disbelief of his newfound title. He draws in crowds which watch his every move and hang on to every word he says, no matter how ridiculous he behaves. And like many earthly conspiracy theories, the author states that it’s not President Beeblebrox who is ultimately in charge, but actually a small group of people who use Beeblebrox to distract the general public from who is really in power.

    Nature of Life/existence
    From the moments they emerged from the seas of Vogsphere as sluggish creatures the Vogons never continued to evolve. Their existence is a surprise because of their resistance to evolution. In order for them to adapt and survive they are forced to undergo surgeries to better suit their environment. The Vogons have moved from other star clusters and since they’re unable to adapt, they must import jeweled scutling crabs from their native countries.

    1. Some great points you raised in your writing Tonya, (especially with regards to Beeblebrox and him being a distraction from those actually in power). We’ll discuss it tomorrow…

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