The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Irony

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Irony

The Irony of Knowledge

The book's name itself is a wonderful joke on how truly impossible it really is to know everything, or even to know a little bit about everything. Imagine how voluminous a work like that would be just for this planet. A 'Hitchhiker's Guide' to the entire galaxy would no doubt be both an impossible endeavor, and a pointless one, because as Dent learns through the novel, the journey through life (vis-a-vis his journey through the universe) is random and often senseless.

The novel also pokes fun at this irony through a few simple jokes. Like that the dolphins are a superintelligent race who choose to be regarded as animals for their own purposes (but they do thank us for the fish, which is nice). Also, when they're locked on a Vogon spaceship, the Vogons make them listen to their poetry, which Dent is actually impressed with, but his friend is tortured to hear it, apparently because human poetry is pretty bad.

Murphy's Law

Murphy's Law is not explicitly mentioned in the novel, but it does help describe how Dent's experience of the universe unfolds. Murphy's Law is an adage that states, "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, probably in the worst way possible." The irony of the story's treatment of that truism is that, while Dent is often subject to the most frustrating, ironic troubles, he survives.

The tone of the novel itself might offer some sort of advice when dealing with the infuriating circumstances of life (such as the earth's destruction, for example), which is to adopt a sense of humor that can shrug it off. Things go terribly wrong for Dent, and he almost gets his brain removed from his body, but in the end, he ends up at diner which isn't so bad. So he's got that going for him, which is nice.

The Character of Zaphod Beeblebrox

This character development explores irony in a few different ways. Firstly, he is an ironic character in that he is completely inept and zoned out, but he's the president of the galaxy. (Although, depending on one's views of government, this may not be as ironic as it seems). Secondly, the fact that he was around to save Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect is ironic, especially since another important theme of the novel is the grandness and vastness of an insensitive and uncaring universe.

This second type of irony might be seen as a compositional element of the novel as satire.

The Irony of Luck

Are the character's lucky or not? The answer to that might depend on where you are in the novel. If you're Arthur Dent, and you're strapped to a table, and little mice alien things are trying to remove your brain to see if you accidentally know the existential key to the universe, you might not feel very lucky. But certainly, escaping the destruction of the earth is lucky. Unless you consider that the earth was destroyed in the first place.

The Meaning of Life

By far, the most ironic element of the novel's plot is that the meaning of life is 42. Well, at least, that's the correct answer to the correct existential question, but as of yet, the supercomputer Deep Thought has not been able to figure out the correct existential question. This is such a sweet, left-handed approach to the problem of existentialism, and this idea is likely why this novel remains such a classic in the book-reading world.

So if 42 is the answer to the question of life, then here are some of the questions that cannot be the right existential question: Is there a God? What is the meaning of the human experience? Essence or Existence? Chicken or Egg?

If the answer is the number 42, the question can't be expository or philosophical. It has to be a quantifiable question. Many interpretations are available for understanding the novel's suggestion here, but ironically, it seems that the point is not understanding the philosophy at all, that the truth is out of our comprehension.

This irony is further explored in the attempt to harvest Dent's brain, because even though he doesn't cognitively know the 'question of life,' he might have accidentally learned it along the way. If he might have learned it accidentally, then maybe the suggestion is that we might also know it, if we're not looking for it, and we try not to think about it.

The Irony of Technology

Firstly, this story contains a depressed robot, which is fantastic as far as irony is concerned. As of yet, artificial intelligence is not capable of emotional experience, and many believe that machine could never develop soul, but the irony isn't necessarily that in the novel a robot has a soul (in fact, that's a well-explored question in the science fiction genre); the irony is that the robot is sad. Of course he is.

Another irony concerning technology is the supercomputer Deep Thought. The first irony here is that the computer is concerned with the meaning of life, which is strange for a computer to care about, at least at face value. The second irony is that the earthlings are an extension of technology, and not the other way around. Another irony in this respect is that the computer fails.

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