On the face of it, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series appears to be all fun and games. Crazy things continually happen, particularly to Arthur, who can only muddle through, never sure of what will come next. A more complex reading reveals that what lies at the heart of the series is something not touched upon often in either young adult or mainstream fiction: the randomness of life and the ability to deal with whatever is put in one’s path by it. Arthur Dent as representative human is thrust into a world not of his making—a world, in fact, actively hostile to his existence. That he survives as long as he does is testament both to chance and to his friends, who also must live with the uncertainty of existence. Central to this idea is the fact that even knowing the answer to life is not in itself an answer because both the question and answer can never be known.
The last two novels of the series teach the most important lessons for young adults, although their tone is less exuberant than the first three and the plots are more straightforward. The destruction of the Earth and the debate about humankind’s supposed superiority in the web of life give much to ponder, as does the eventual destruction of all that is. While such issues are handled in an amusing way, astute young adults will find concepts that they will confront in one form or another for the rest of their lives.
The series was not originally intended specifically for...
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