The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Literary Elements


Science Fiction, Humorous Fiction, Comedic Science Fiction

Setting and Context

Present time on Earth; the characters also travel through space 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 may be depressing since Arthur Dent loses his home and then his world only to end up in life-threatening situations where survival seems 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.

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, which 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, 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.


Arthur Dent's house being demolished foreshadows 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."


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, but the idea that you can compare a trip to the chemist to the size of the universe is also a ridiculous and funny understatement.


1. The Babel Fish, which is used as a universal translator, is an allusion to the Temple of Babel in the Bible.
2. Genghis Khan, an ancient warrior


See the separate Imagery section of this Note.


The novel characterizes the paradox of God'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



1. 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.
2. "The planet beneath them was almost perfectly oblivious of their presence" (25) suggests how impersonal the galaxy is.
3. "This was because reason in fact was out to lunch" (79).