October 12, 2018

The Beauty of Ridiculousness | Takeaways from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

5 Takeaways is a feature designed to exalt books that deserve more than just a review. You can see the other posts in this feature here. 

This feature is specifically for books when I decide that a review was kind of pointless. Almost everyone knows about the book and you don't need another person screaming at you to read this book (no matter how amazing it is). It is a given that my review would never do it justice. Instead of convincing you to read it, I want to discuss what I got out of it besides a five-star review.

The Hitchhiker's Guide is a renowned classic on multiple levels, but not on the dusty old level of Shakespeare and Dickens (which I say with the most love possible, as an English major). It is a cult classic that has greatly influenced science fiction, including one of my favorite shows of all time, Doctor Who. Even though it isn't an academic classic, there are still a bunch of takeaways worth discussing (in a fun way, not in an English class way, I promise).

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
By Douglas Adams
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy #1
Published on October 12, 1979
204 Pages
Science Fiction, Adult

Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.
Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker's Guide ("A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have") and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox—the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod's girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years. 

1. Science fiction can be funny

When I think of science fiction, I tend to think of time travel, space operas, and dystopians, none of which have a particularly light atmosphere. Not many people are cracking jokes when they are perpetually in mortal danger.

However, that is exactly how The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy approaches science fiction. There is just as much humor as there is science, which will appease even those most skeptical about science.
“The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't.” -The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
If you are a fan of the humor in Andy Weir's The Martian, then you will love the voice and light-hearted tone in The Hitchhiker's Guide.
“And all dared to brave unknown terrors, to do mighty deeds, to boldly split infinitives that no man had split before--and thus was the Empire forged.” -The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

2. It's okay for books to be ridiculous

Not every book has to have a large purpose, attempt to solve all the problems of the world, or even obey all of the rules of mathematics and physics. By operating completely outside of the rules of human reasoning, The Hitchhiker's Guide shows that ridiculousness is not necessarily something to look down on in a book.

There is a freedom in its complete abandon of reality and comprehensible notions of humanity. Dolphins and mice are smarter than people (and I think that I actually agree with him) and the answer to all the answers in life is 42. Nothing makes sense, but there is a beautiful irony is the senselessness.
“For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons.” -The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

It breaks the wall of disbelief and ventures into a new dimension where reality doesn't really matter--the only real thing is absurdity. 

3. The galaxy is big and we are never going to see all of it

Even though the thought of an infinite universe that is constantly expanding and will expand until the end of time provokes a sort of existential dread, The Hitchhiker's Guide shows that the vastness of the universe is not something to be feared. Instead, all you need a book (and maybe a towel) in order to explore the universe.

This truly is a guide to the entire galaxy, transporting readers across all of time and space--a guide to a galaxy of its own and a testament to everything that seems to be beyond human science and imagination. There are so many things out in the galaxy that we could never even imagine.

This is where The Hitchhiker's Guide reminds me of Doctor Who and the endless stream of planets that the Doctor adventures to. If I can't be the Doctor's companion, then I might as well take an adventure around the galaxy with Arthur Dent (who reminds me a lot of Capaldi), Ford Prefect (more of a Tennant), and any aliens that we happen to pass along the way.

4. Humans aren't all-knowing or infallible

Nothing like the vastness of the galaxy to put your life in perspective. On one hand, HGTG highly values the individual while also ensuring that one person's ego doesn't expand to fill the entire universe.

Shots are taken at human arrogance, with the literal planet being destroyed in the first few pages of the book without humanity able to do anything to stop it. It was nice to read a book to put humanity in its place and doesn't assume that we are the best that the galaxy has to offer.

5. Irony is my favorite literary device (besides the pun)

The Hitchhiker's Guide is based on some truly ridiculous propositions that are horribly ironic in comparison to how people see the world. The galaxy isn't run by humans, and the change in the power dynamic is rather hilarious. 

The real difference to most of the science fiction I have read is that The Hitchhiker's Guide doesn't take itself too seriously, which gives it the opportunity to take full advantage of humor, ridiculousness, and irony. 

Are you a fan of science fiction? What do you think about humor in science fiction? Have you read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? Are you a fan of ridiculous books or do you prefer realistic stories?

No comments:

Post a Comment