Themes and Characters
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy includes five characters: Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, Zaphod Beeblebrox, Trillian (Tricia MacMillan), Slartibartfast, and Marvin, the robot. Though all are likable enough, they are one-dimensional creations who merely react to circumstances rather than handle them.
Arthur Dent is hardly the customary space hero. He has no answers, no solutions, and exhibits no bravery. The only thing he actually does is lie down in the mud in front of bulldozers intent on demolishing his home. During crises in space, he curls up in the fetal position, screeches "Huhhhhgggnnnnn," falls asleep, or asks for a cup of tea.
Adams has said, "Arthur Dent is to a certain extent autobiographical. He moves from one astonishing event to another without fully comprehending what's going on. He's the Everyman Character—an ordinary person caught up in some extraordinary events."
Zaphod Beeblebox sums Arthur up quite well when other aliens propose to replace Arthur's brain with an electronic one. "You'd just have to program it to say 'What?' and 'I don't understand' and 'Where's the tea?'" he responds.
Arthur's sardonic one-liners in the face of the catastrophe provide much of the humor in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. For example, after being told by Ford Prefect that they are safe in a Vogon Constructor Fleet spaceship, Arthur says, "This is obviously some strange usage of the word safe that I wasn't previously aware of."
Ford Prefect accepts Dent for what he is, and the two are good friends. Prefect is a roving researcher for the electronic book, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. After being stranded for fifteen years on Earth, he expands its guidebook description from "harmless" to "mostly harmless." He spends his time crashing university parties, drinking, or trying to pick up girls. As Arthur mourns the loss of Earth and its inhabitants, Prefect tries to reassure him by saying, "You just come along with me and have a good time. The Galaxy's a fun place."
Prefect does not get very upset about any kind of peril, including his impending demise in the vacuum of space. As trouble appears, his first defense is to simply talk his way out of it. Ironically, Prefect cannot understand why humans talk so much, but decides if they do not continually exercise their lips, their brains start working. Zaphod Beeblebrox should be, as a space creature with three arms and two heads, a villain. Instead he turns out to be Ford Prefect's semi-cousin, President of the Imperial Galactic Government, and mostly harmless himself. He is an adventurer, but is barely capable of piloting the spaceship he has stolen.
Trillian is an attractive human who Dent once tried to pick up at a party. As Zaphod Beeblebrox's companion, she does little but fiddle with the spaceship's controls and stand behind someone, anyone, during dangerous situations. Her most important contribution in the book is to bring two white mice (actually "hyperintelligent pandimensional beings" who first commissioned the creation of Earth) into the Heart of Gold spaceship.
Marvin is a prototype robot. Zaphod Beeblebrox calls him "the Paranoid Android," and Dent labels him "an electronic sulking machine." The first thing he says is, "I think you ought to know I'm feeling very...
(The entire section is 804 words.)