What would you do if you had found out that the world would end in approximately fourteen minutes? Arthur Dent, a resident of Earth, faces this question and more as he is thrust deep into the middle of the Galaxy. Luckily, he has the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, as well as a companion in Ford Perfect on his side in this wonderful sci-fi spoof written by Douglas Adams.
Arthur Dent starts his day, a Thursday recovering from the night before, when a low rumbling noise, the bulldozer outside, grabs his attention. He rushes out in his bathrobe and slippers to stop this abuse to his property by lying in front of the bulldozer. Ford Prefect convinces the contractor to lay in Arthur’s place while they go to a pub. Here they order three pints of alcohol, and Ford reveals to Arthur that, “I’m not from Guildford after all, but from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelguese.”(Adams, HHGG p19).
At this point the Vogons are about to destroy Earth to make way for a Intergalatic Highway. Ford, using his alien expertise, hitches a ride with the Vogon ship, which “hung in the sky much the same way bricks don’t.”(HHGG, p25) Once in the Vogon ship, they are forced to listen to the third-worst poetry in the galaxy, and thrown into space, with only their towels and the guide. What a way to start a day, losing your house, your planet, and being in deep space attempting to hold your breath before you self-implode.
Arthur Dent, “the constant in Adams’s plot is the helpless, semi-clad character.”(Brown, p1032)He represents the everyman to us in the Galaxy, hopping between planets with only his bathrobe, a towel, the guide, and a Babel fish in his ear to understand the various languages. His follies, and comments are what makes the HHGG so funny and popular. He also is the thickest-skinned traveler that I have ever read about, also having the thickest mind at times.
The president of the galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox, derides him constantly with his referral to Arthur as “monkey man” and “Earthman”. Arthur should not feel special, though, Zaphod is the proclaimed coolest, “you guys are so unhip it’s a wonder your bums don’t fall off”(HHGG) as his favorite quote goes.
There seems to be a slight rift between Zaphod and Arthur. Arthur is upset because Zaphod stole Tricia McMillan from an Earth party several weeks before said earth is demolished. Zaphod, of course, just picks on the closest person to him, outside of himself, since he has two heads and a third arm for efficiency.
With Trillian, as she is known outside Earth, and Zaphod paired up, and the fact that Ford and Zaphod are grew up together in Betelguese, Arthur is really the proverbial fifth wheel in this series. Later in the storyline, he ends up spending several years by himself on Earth Mark II, designed by Slartibartfast.
Zaphod, in one of his presidential speeches, is launching the Heart of Gold spaceship complete with Improbability Drive(the more improbable a situation the faster it goes)which he steals and is traveling across the universe with it, and eventually that’s how Ford and Arthur get picked up after holding their breathes in space.
The ship ends up taking them to the “mysterious planet”(Jonas,p24-25) of Magrathea, a planet that used to build luxury planets, but had to lie dormant for millions of years because the market fell out. Slartibartfast was the designer of Earth, and is now working on Earth Mark II, and it is he who reveals to them that the earth was built for pan-dimensional beings, read mice, as a science experiment.
The mice wish to buy off Arthur’s brain so that they can reconstruct the matrix, enabling them to finish the question. They know that the answer to the question of “Life, the Universe and Everything” is 42 but the computer “Deep Thought” suggested they answer the question more clearly, hence earth being constructed, and since it was destroyed before it could finish the answer, either Arthur’s brain was needed or Earth was to be rebuilt. Needless to say, his event would normally crush earthly mortals, but Arthur prevails, not to say that his mouth and mind did not fo out of order for some time, though.
The crew eventually escapes this situation also, (if I told you how, you would not read the books) Arthur stays alive after being shot at, being lost in space, and other “logical extensions of mad premises”(Kemp, Listener p866). Having not eaten for several meals, the gang finally ends up at the “Restaurant at the End of the Universe”. Here, you can enjoy a Big Bang Burger while you watch the galaxy come to a close. So pick up your Pan-Galactic Gargleblaster and say “cheers”.