Study Guide

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Absurdity

By Douglas Adams

Absurdity

In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the galaxy is a pretty messed up place, where very few things end up fulfilling our expectations—and most things turn out wrong. The existence of an Infinite Improbability Drive means that lots of strange things happen, like a pile of eggs dropping on the planet Poghril, which feeds the last Poghrilian, who then ends up dying of cholesterol (9.5-6). As you can see from that example, the universe in this book is a pretty absurd place. Even the basic facts of your life may turn out to be wrong, like when the planet Earth turns out to be a giant computer operated by mice who are bored with the program Earth is running. You might think that this is depressing, but in Hitchhiker's, when you're confronted with some dangerous absurdity, you might as well laugh.

Questions About Absurdity

  1. Is there anything in this book that isn't absurd? Any person, object, institution (religion, school, government), or philosophical position that is taken seriously?
  2. What techniques does Adams use to deal with absurdity? For instance, is the digressive omniscient narrator a technique that makes the universe seem absurd?
  3. Is absurdity always related to comedy? Are there any tragic aspects of absurdity in this book?
  4. How does Adams's style of absurdity compare to other famous absurd works, like Waiting for Godot and The Stranger?

Chew on This

The Hitchhiker's Guide plays with the idea of absurdity but ultimately shows us a universe that makes sense.

In Hitchhiker's Guide, the universe is absurd and depressing—no joke. The humorous stuff is there to distract us from how sad it really is.