The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Metaphors and Similes

"The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't" (Simile)

One of the most memorable similes in the novel is this elegant description of the Vogon spacecraft. It is a particularly brilliant mode of comparison because, while it seems to offer useful information about what the Vogon ships look like, it really doesn’t. This is a relatively early example of the type of humorous twisting of figurative language that the reader will confront throughout the book: a simple declarative statement in which the predicate completely upends the expectations established in the subject. One can come back to this sentence over and over again after a period of rest and it will always at first seem to be giving useful information, but upon further reflection simply does not. The point is that there is absolutely no way that comparing a spaceship’s position in the sky to the effect of gravity upon a brick makes any tangible connection at all. What Adams accomplishes here is nothing less than genius: making a completely nonsensical assertion seem to make perfect sense.

"Vogons have as much sex appeal as a road accident" (Simile)

Ford Prefect’s observation about the character of the alien race known as the Vogons is measured, calculating, and right on target. What better means of simile could there possibly be to sum up the utter lack of sex appeal in a species than a comparison to a road accident? It works on two levels: they may be utterly devoid sex appeal, but—like a car accident—they are impossible to not look at.

"the effect of drinking a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster is like having your brains smashed out with a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick” (Simile)

This is an example of the typical sort of simile that pops up throughout the novel. It is a simile that ultimately becomes more akin to a metaphor. How? Well, the entire point of a simile is comparison, and the entire point of comparison is to make something unfamiliar seem more familiar. But in this case, the unfamiliar—the alien cocktail—is compared to something that is equally unfamiliar: the experience of having your brains smashed out. Thus, the comparison itself serves a comedic metaphor that is the fundamental means by which alien and otherworldly experiences are related to the reader through the mechanism of the Hitchhiker’s guide.

"When you're cruising down the road in the fast lane and you lazily sail past a few hard-driving cars and are feeling pretty pleased with yourself and then accidentally change from fourth to first instead of third thus making your engine leap out of your hood in a rather ugly mess, it tends to throw you off your stride in much the same way that this remark threw Ford Prefect off his" (106) (Metaphor)

This is an apt metaphor to suggest how Ford thought he was in control of the situation and assumed nothing could surprise him—after all, he knew Zaphod—but then abruptly realizes things are going very astray. He is not, in fact, in control at all.

"Ford and Arthur popped into outer space like corks from a toy gun" (75) (Simile)

This simile compares the two men being pushed out into space to corks coming from a toy gun, creating the sense that Ford and Arthur are tiny and insignificant, quickly and violently thrust into an unfamiliar void. It reinforces how humans/humanoids are minuscule when compared to the rest of the universe.