The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Literary Elements

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Literary Elements


Science Fiction, Humorous Fiction, Comedic Science Fiction

Setting and Context

Beginning in present time on Earth, the characters travel through space on various spaceships from Earth to different planets, like Damogran and Magrathea.

Narrator and Point of View

Third person omniscient. Some chapters focus specifically on the thoughts, feelings, and actions of one character instead of all of the characters. Occasionally, the omniscient narrator breaks into the action to tell a story or amusing anecdote that relates, in some way, to what is happening to the characters.

Tone and Mood

The tone of the writing is gallows humor. While the subject is may be depressing since Arthur Dent loses his home and then his world only to end up in life threatening situations where survival seems at best, improbable., the author makes sure that the dangerous situations are resolved in ways that are quirky, quixotic, and ridiculous. This creates a dark and dry humor that is linked with a gallows humor tone.

Protagonist and Antagonist

The protagonist is Arthur Dent, survivor of planet Earth. There are several possible antagonists: the Vogons, who are evil, ugly creatures who destroy the earth; the mice, who created the earth to answer a question, or the universe, whom Arthur feels continually tries to destroy his life.

Major Conflict

After the Earth is destroyed, Arthur has to try to survive the universe by hitchhiking with Ford Prefect. While there is no other major conflict, there are several minor conflicts that occur as Arthur stumbles through his life. For example, the story starts with Arthur having a conflict about whether his house should be destroyed to build a bypass. It moves on to the destruction of the Earth by the Vogons, hitchhiking on to the Vogon spaceship, which is strictly a hitchhiker free zone, and surviving being jettisoned into space by the Vogons.


The climax of the novel takes place when Arthur, with the help of his friends, escapes the mice with his brain intact and go to lunch.


When Arthur Dent's house is demolished it is foreshadowing to the destruction of the Earth by the Vogons.

Arthur Dent wakes up to see yellow bulldozers outside of his house, and discovers that his house is right in the path of the new bypass, and therefore must be torn down. As Mr. Prosser, the supervising council worker says to Arthur, "I'm afraid you're going to have to accept it....this bypass has got to be built and it's going to be built!"

Shortly thereafter, the Vogons come to destroy Earth for a similar reason. They tell the people of Earth, "As you will no doubt be aware, the plans for development of the outlying regions of the Galaxy require the building of a hyperspatial express route through your star system, and regrettably your planet is one of those scheduled for demolition."


Due to the dry and sarcastic tone of the narrator, there are several examples of understatement in the novel. Fr example, one of the things the guide informs us of is the size of the universe. It says "Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space." Not only is calling space "big" a huge understatement, the idea that you can compare a trip to the chemist to the size of the universe is a ridiculous and funny understatement.


One of the allusions that is used in the book is to the Bible. Obviously, when several races are totally unknown to each other and are meeting for the first time out in space, they will be unable to communicate with each other. The solution, of course, is the Babel Fish. Once it is inserted in your ear, the fish will translate any spoken word into the host's mother tongue. The Babel Fish, which is used as a universal translator, is an allusion to the Temple of Babel in the Bible.


A lot of what Arthur experiences as he begins his journey through the universe is completely new, amazing and, frequently, absurd. Therefore, the author has to try to convey the awesome things that Arthur is seeing and feeling through descriptive imagery.

When describing a fleet of spaceships, the author states that "the ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't". This descriptions shows how wrong and ugly the fleet of Vogon ships looked in Earth's atmosphere.

Another example of imagery comes when Ford puts the Babel fish in Arthur's ear. "Ford, with a lightning movement, clapped his hand to Arthur's ear, and he had the sudden sickening sensation of the fish slithering deep into his aural tract. Gasping with horror he scrabbled at his ear for a second or so, but then slowly turned goggle-eyed with wonder. He was experiencing the aural equivalent of looking at a picture of two black silhouetted faces and suddenly seeing it as a picture of a white candlestick. Or of looking at a lot of colored dots on a piece of paper which suddenly resolve themselves into the figure six and mean that your optician is going to charge you a lot of money for a new pair of glasses." The imagery is so descriptive that the reader can immediately picture the experience that Arthur is going trough.


The novel characterizes the paradox of Gd's existence. The question is how to prove God's existence when the definition of God requires faith, and does not rely on proof outside of that. The story relies on the Babel Fish, which, for reasons completely unknown, can be inserted into the ear as a universal translating device.

"I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing."

"But," says Man, "the Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves that You exist, and so therefore, by Your own arguments, You don't. QED"

"Oh dear," says God, "I hadn't thought of that," and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.


The novel begins with Arthur Dent trying to save his house from inevitable destruction so the city can build a bypass. Of course, he fails. Shortly thereafter, the Earth is also threatened by inevitable destruction by the Vogons in order to create a galactic highway. This is an excellent example of parallelism in the novel, where two events mirror or correspond in some way. In this case, Arthur's home is destroyed, and then his home planet is destroyed.

Metonymy and Synecdoche



Personification occurs when the author assigns human characteristics to something that is not human. In the novel, one example of personification occurs when the narrator tells the story of a bowl of petunias falls to its doom "Curiously enough, the only thing that the bowl of petunias thought as they fell was "Oh no. Not again." " Petunias normally are not associated with thinking, but in the absurd life of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, we can see its final thoughts, although we do not know what it means.

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