Absolutely! The Hitchhiker’s Guide narrates the tales of a low-profile small-town Englishman, Arthur Dent, who whooshes off with his friend and guide, Ford Prefect, a prominent intergalactic being temporarily residing in a human form on the earth, on a series of space adventures. From the outset it is obvious that Arthur Dent is no hero nor a role model. Yet, he is a character many of us, especially dreaming and fantasy-prone youngsters, can identify with.
Many of us too hail from humble non-descript beginnings and, regardless, some of us certainly desire to be one day involved in matters of ultimate importance to the universe, just as Arthur Dent does in Douglas Adams’s classic tale. Human nature consists of this supreme ambition to reach to the stars. We can laugh at it, we can make fun of it, we can even try to forget it, but not for too long can we get rid of it.
There is a deep impulse within the human soul to reach the hand for the skies and set foot on distant worlds, whether we acknowledge it or not, and whether this be in a physical sense or in some symbolical sense. The Earth is our home, but the Universe is our home too, both being a part of the same continuum. It is for this reason precisely that the rather ingenuous character of Arthur strikes such a deep chord with us. Behind the form of SF spoof and satire, we can occasionally sense Adams addressing some deep human longings of meaning and being.
Teenagers are full of such longing, it is very for this longing to be connected to the vastness of the universe in some way. The Hitchhiker’s Guide, in its own nonchalant and beguiling manner, can stretch our minds to a higher dimension. The universe is an infinite mystery. However, instead of being intimidated by its endless vastness, or being petrified in sheer awe of it, one has to learn just to take things in one’s stride, and keep moving on. More than a central message or philosophy, Adams projects a certain attitude in his book.
And it certainly rubs off on the young readers of the book, which is what perhaps explains the cult status of this novel. Thinking and philosophy, the incessant seeking and searching for answers – they are integral part of what we are and give us humans a sense of purpose and direction in life; without them we would be lost. Yet we can perhaps find a new dimension of ourselves which is quite at home with the universe, without the agency of a thinking mind acting either as a medium or as a barrier.
Thinking is our most precious treasure, yet keeping it aside and being unburdened of it, even if only for a short while, and thereby connecting to the universe directly, can give rise to new perceptions and a new sense of exhilaration. The Hitchhiker’s Guide may seem like light satire that is designed to have fun at the expense of human values, beliefs, and intelligence (and sometimes particularly in a British context), but consciously or unconsciously, Adams has interwoven into the strands of its narrative some subtle themes and messages which are of deeper significance.
This book does not take anything seriously, especially itself – and therein lies its essence. Yet in its own way it makes us think seriously about ourselves and the universe. It is an indirect, fun-filled and disarming approach to provoke some serious questions in us, the same questions it seemingly makes a mockery of. Every high school senior has to learn what the ultimate truth is. The ultimate answer to everything, after all, is so simple — it is… well, 42!
ADAMS, DOUGLAS. “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. ” First Ballantine Books Trade Edition. New York: Ballantine Books, 1997