Study Guide

A Hologram for the King Life, Consciousness, and Existence

By Dave Eggers

Life, Consciousness, and Existence

There's no question that Alan's had a rough time of things: he's weathered an awful marriage, stressful jobs, unemployment, a tragic national crisis, and the bizarre death of his friend. It's only natural that he gets to thinking about things.

When he comes face-to-face with Saudi Arabia, all of Alan's existential angst bubbles to the surface. The harshness of the landscape makes him wonder what humans are even doing on the Earth in the first place. It's clear to him that nature means to kill every last one of us, so why even try to survive?

Alan also muses on his personal purpose and the legacy he'll leave behind. Long story short: he doesn't find many answers at the end of A Hologram For the King. But his salesman's optimism keeps him plugging away at the mystery of life, despite the despair that lurks just below the surface.

Questions About Life, Consciousness, and Existence

  1. What does Alan hope to achieve by going to Saudi Arabia? Besides making cash?
  2. Alan has some interesting theories about the purpose of human beings. What are some of his ideas on this?
  3. Why does Alan feel so isolated from everybody else in this work?
  4. If you had to make an educated guess (and you do), what would you say Eggers wants us to understand about life in our times?

Chew on This

By ending the work as he does, Eggers wants us to see the world as an ultimately ruthless and uncaring place.

Alan's lack of purpose in life stems mostly from his personal choices, not from unfortunate circumstances or the nature of human existence.