Literature: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is the first book in the increasingly inaccurately-named The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy. It constitutes the first half of author Douglas Adams' original radio story. Followed by The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

Arthur Dent is your typical English Everyman. He lives in a sleepy English village on this Insignificant Little Blue Planet known as Earth. His life is so desperately ordinary that he could not possibly know his best friend, Ford Prefect, is not in fact, from Guildford, but is from a planet in the vicinity of Betelgeuse. As a roving researcher for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Ford went to Earth to do some research... and has been stuck here ever since.

And then, one dull Thursday Morning, Ford Shows up at Arthur's house, claiming the world will soon be demolished by strange creatures called Vogons. And it all just gets weirder from there.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptational Villainy: The mice. In the original radio play, they're fairly amiable, if somewhat stuffy and lacking interest in very much; having deduced that Arthur, as a last-generation human, is in the ideal position to find the Ultimate Question for them and promise to make him "a reasonably rich man" if he does — something he never actually gets around to because the plot happens. In the book, and in subsequent adaptations, they're far more sinister about it, plotting to kill him and remove his brain in order to read the question from his brainwaves.
  • Anti-Climax: The answer to the ultimate question is... 42.
  • Apathetic Citizens: What the Vogons accuse the Earthlings of being.
    Vogon Ship: Apathetic bloody planet. I've no sympathy for them.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Ford and Zaphod share "three of the same mothers".
  • Chaotic Stupid: Zaphod, at times.
  • Cheshire Cat Grin: A trait of Ford Prefect, whose smile often gives people the impression that he's about to go for their neck.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Both Ford and Zaphod.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The Infinite Improbability Drive justifies things like the probability of Arthur and Ford getting saved by a passing-by spaceship being the same as the phone number to an Islington flat where, during a party, Arthur fell head over heels for Tricia MacMillan; Tricia being a passenger on the spaceship that, against said odds, saves Arthur and Ford, and the fact that the one piloting the spaceship is Ford's long-lost cousin, the president of the entire universe, the man who stole Tricia from Arthur during the Islington flat party and the doofus who, through sheer negligence, managed to get the whole planet Earth explodified.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: The Captain of the Vogon "constructor fleet" tortures Arthur and Ford with his terrible poetry.
    Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz: And now, Earthlings, I present you with a simple choice! Either die in the vacuum of space... or tell me what you thought of my poem!
  • Crapsack World: Played for Laughs
  • Death by Adaptation: In the original radio play, the fate of the two gun-happy cops, Shooty and Bang-Bang, is never mentioned — in the book, they very definitely die.
  • Desecrating The Dead: Discussed for Laughs: Arthur Dent threatens to have Mr Prosser (the council worker who knocked Arthur's house down) hung, drawn, and quartered, and then to cut him up into little bits, and then take the little bits and jump on them.
  • Deus ex Machina: Douglas Adams originally came up with the idea of the Infinite Improbability Drive because he couldn't think of a way to save Arthur and Ford after they were thrown out the airlock.
  • Driven to Suicide: Marvin ends up causing the cops' ship to kill itself simply by talking to it.
  • The Eeyore: Marvin, a.k.a. the "Paranoid Android"
  • The End of the World as We Know It
  • Eskimos Aren't Real: Arthur Dent is forced to deal with the reality of the Earth having been destroyed by the Vogon Constructor Fleet.
    New York has gone. No reaction. Hed never seriously believed it existed anyway.
  • The Fool: Zaphod—though in a twist on the trope, his seemingly random impulses are actually guided by memories he erased years ago, ensuring that they do, in fact, have a loftier purpose. He'd just rather not think about it.
  • Fun with Homophones: At one point Ford tells Arthur that hyperspace is unpleasantly like being drunk. Arthur asks "What's so unpleasant about being drunk?"note  and Ford responds "Ask a glass of water".note 
  • Grade System Snark: "'Ten out of ten' for style, but 'Minus several million' for good thinking."
  • Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: The effect of the Infinite Improbability Drive. Played for Laughs, of course.
  • It Runs on Nonsensoleum: Applied Phlebotinum runs mainly on the Rule of Funny, for example, the Infinite Improbability Drive, which as the name implies, literally runs on improbability. It runs by placing its vector configurer into a cup that contains Brownian Motion. The best source of Brownian Motion is a hot cup of tea. How it works is the real mystery, as the inventor was lynched by scientists because they "realize what they really hate is a smartarse."
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold
    • Zaphod is both figuratively and literally this. While he's an arrogant jerk who steals both women and starships, he does have his share of good qualities as well. Not to mention that the ship he stole is actually called the "Heart of Gold."
    • Arthur and Ford try to suggest that the Vogon Captain is this, in an effort to avoid being ejected into space. He promptly tells them that no, he's just an out-and-out Jerk with a Heart of Jerk, and then orders them thrown out the airlock.
  • Lawful Stupid: The Vogons are the living embodiment of this trope.
  • Noodle Incident: The Great Collapsing Hrung Disaster of Gal./Sid./Year 03758, which wiped out almost everybody on Ford Prefect's ancestral planet Betelgeuse Seven. Lampshaded by mentioning that nobody knows what a Hrung is or why it should collapse on Betelgeuse Seven — least of all Ford, whose childhood nickname "Ix" meant "boy who is unable to satisfactorily explain what a Hrung is, or why it should collapse on Betelgeuse Seven."
  • Punch Clock Villain: Ford informs Arthur that the Vogons "made so much money being professionally unpleasant" that they can afford to employ servants to do their cooking. The Vogons are "not actually evil" though but "bad-tempered, bureaucratic, officious and callous"... that's to say they are examples of the Obstructive Bureaucrat.
  • Spot of Tea: Responsible for Brownian Motion. Also, as standard Englishman Arthur Dent will find out, rather difficult to obtain in outer space.
    Arthur: Is there any tea on this spaceship?
  • Railroad Plot: In the beginning, the Vogons blow up the earth because it's where a hyperspace highway is to be built. An unusual case as this doesn't make up the bulk of the plot; it merely kicks off the book's events.
  • Unfazed Everyman: Arthur Dent (the former trope namer)
  • Vast Bureaucracy: The entire society of the Vogons.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: Arthur, at the very beginning. In this case, it's nothing dirty — he found out about the plans to bulldoze his home and got rip-roaringly drunk and angry.

And remember, always know where your towel is.