So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish
Back on Earth with nothing more to show for his long, strange trip through time and space than a ratty towel and a plastic shopping bag, Arthur Dent is ready to believe that the past eight years were all just a figment of his stressed-out imagination. But a gift-wrapped fishbowl with a cryptic inscription, the mysterious disappearance of Earth's dolphins, and the discovery of his battered copy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy all conspire to give Arthur the sneaking suspicion that something otherworldly is indeed going on. . . . God only knows what it all means. And fortunately, He left behind a Final Message of explanation. But since it's light-years away from Earth, on a star surrounded by souvenir booths, finding out what it is will mean hitching a ride to the far reaches of space aboard a UFO with a giant robot. But what else is new? From the Paperback edition.
The curriculet is being added to your library
Did you know that this curriculet has a built-in "Define" tool? Click on any word, and select the "Define" option to see a list of definitions for most words in this text. Try to define the word "primitive" in this sentence.
Douglas Adams, the author of this book, wrote several more books within this trilogy (five books total, though!). These books can be placed within the genres of science fiction and, arguably, romantic comedy. We will explore how Adam's style, tone, structure, and content contribute to the uniqueness of his written works. Below is an original cover of Adam's fourth book in this series. (This annotation contains an image)
This curriculet will focus on Adams' unique writing style, and how he uses language, such as rhetorical and literary devices, to affect the mood and the tone of his writing and our understanding of characters and themes. Take first few opening lines of the story, for example. How does this silly introduction impact you?
The way Adams unfolds these events (in the highlighted passage) can BEST be described as
Adams is a master of mixing scientific jargon with casual language. Can you point out how he does this in the highlighted sentence? There is an image of a thermostatic radiator control below, which we would most likely call a "thermostat" in modern usage. (This annotation contains an image)
Here is another technique that Adams uses--onomatopoeia, or the use of words to imitate sounds. The highlighted sentence contains several examples. There is also a repetition of these words within this sentence. What impact does the repetition of these "sound words" have on you?
Based on the highlighted passage, one can infer that Adams is using __________ as a way to keep his readers engaged.
The purpose of Chapter Three is MOST likely meant to do which of the following?
Absurdity is a part of Adams' writing style that he uses to create a startling disconnect between what you think will happen and what actually happens. This scene with the detached arm that functions independently from a body is an example of this absurdity. What mood does Adams create through this type of writing?
How does Ford persuade the bartender to cancel his drinking debt?
Adams is also known for his round-about logic--a drawn-out way of saying something important in more words than necessary. Take a glance at this highlighted passage and see what Ford's comment about the rules of his profession all boil down to.
Adams is creating a mood through the setting here. What kind of mood do you think he creates? Watch the video below and be prepared to look at mood (and tone) throughout this curriculet. (This annotation contains a video)
What mood does the description of the background setting create in this scene with Ford and the woman?
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (shown below) is a galactic guidebook full of absurdly practical advice for anyone who travels to other planets in the universe. Ford, as you know, is an editor. It plays a central role in all of Adams' books in this series. What does Ford's most recent discovery in the Guide suggest about Earth? (This annotation contains an image)
Both Arthur and Ford learn that Earth has not actually vanished. Which of the following effects is this fact within the novel MOST likely meant to create for the reader?
Hyperbole, or an exaggeration, is another device that Adams frequently uses. In the context of this sentence it is meant to be humorous.
What is the CENTRAL conflict that both Ford and Arthur must discover?
Vogons (shown below) are a race of aliens who destroyed Earth in the first novel of the Hitchhiker's trilogy. Apparently, their actions have been undone. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following statements BEST summarizes the first impressions Adams gives us of Arthur?
The Babel fish comes from one of Arthur's earlier adventures. If placed in the ear, it essentially translates any language that is spoken to you by any alien race throughout the universe. (This annotation contains an image)
What is Adams' MAIN focus in this chapter?
No big deal, right? The way Adams nonchalantly mentions this potentially apocalyptic disease is an example of understatement--making something very great and serious seem less important than it really is. It is a form of irony.
Arthur's pensive mood (as shown in the highlighted text) is MOST related to his need to
Ford Prefect is a long distance away from Arthur Dent. At this point in the story, they are on their own journeys, but we have a sense that their paths will intersect. In the meantime, Adams creates a parallel plot in the story. Learn about parallel plots below, so we can analyze its impact on this story. (This annotation contains a video)
Why does Adams MOST likely use a constant mixture of scientific and casual language when he describes events and concepts in this story?
Adams uses metaphors and similes (see video below) to suggest new ways of looking at common objects. The highlighted example is a metaphor because it uses the verb "was" to link Earth to his new description, "a microscopic dot on a microscopic dot". How does this comparison make you look differently at Earth? (This annotation contains a video)
Adams' use of a _________ creates a humorous way of looking at the simple event described in this highlighted passage.
This chapter gives a glimpse into the inner life of Arthur Dent by showing how he reacts in a conflict. As you learn more about him, you can see how Adams develops the complexity of his character by using Fenny to bring out parts of his personality and character. Watch the video below, and look for questions about character development in this curriculet. (This annotation contains a video)
What character trait does Adams show that both Arthur (in this chapter) and Ford (in previous chapters) MUST have in order to make progress in the chaos around them?
The onomatopoeia used in this sentence is meant to convey which of the following?
Part I Quiz
As you begin this second section of the curriculet, think about what you know of science fiction. What are the main elements of this genre? Would you say that the word "mystery" is part of a good science fiction? In what ways is there "mystery" in this story?
This chapter represents an authorial intrusion. Adams is breaking away from the main plot of the story to tell us an aside--an fact spoken directly to us to help us know something important that relates to the story as a whole. What in this chapter connects to what you already know is going on?
Arthur's interactions with most minor characters in this novel can be described as any one of the following EXCEPT
The Heart of Gold (shown below) is the spaceship that Arthur flew on in the other books of the Hitchhiker's series. The technology that Arthur has been exposed to is much more sophisticated than what he encounters on Earth. (This annotation contains an image)
There is a bit of cool history in this text. Arthur apparently bought one of the first Apple computers (the same company that makes iPhones, of course). This computer was affordable to only the wealthy at about $1,000 per device (several thousand dollars today). (This annotation contains an image)
Think for a moment about the events that Arthur experiences. He is focused on one thing--Fenny. But he is sidetracked with little, pointless diversions. Why does Adams include these meaningless moments? Is he simply filling the pages, or is there a deeper meaning behind these plot events?
The plot in this chapter seems to slow down as Fenny and Arthur meet up at her apartment. Why does Adams MOST likely slow the pace of the plot?
Although it might not seem that important, towels really are an important symbol in this story and the other Hitchhiker's stories. Arthur carries a towel with him throughout his galactic adventures. A quote from another Hitchhiker book states, "A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can carry." Pay attention to towels within this story and decide for yourself if they are as important as stated. (This annotation contains an image)
How does Adams use repetition to create suspense in this chapter?
Pay attention to the mood in this scene. While the focus on the Hitchhiker's series has been on Arthur pursuing universal truths and going on galactic quests, the grandiosity of this lifestyle seems to be taking a backseat to the love affair he has going on in his life. Why do you think Adams is taking Arthur this direction in this story? How has the mood slightly shifted from the beginning of the story to now?
Why does Arthur tell Fenny this peculiar story about the biscuits?
This question is a reference to the first book in the Hitchhiker's series. Arthur and his friends travel throughout the galaxy in search of the meaning of life. When they find the person who can tell them, the answer they get is "forty-two". The complete randomness and seeming insignificance of this response disillusions the explorers, but gives them a greater understanding of life's meaning: life means what you want it to mean. (This annotation contains an image)
How does Adams solidify the idea that Arthur and Fenny's encounter is arranged by fate?
As superfluous as this chapter may seem, Adams is actually making a point about historical documents, in general. Take your social studies textbook, for example. How does what you learn in this chapter apply to your textbook?
What does this chapter reveal that Arthur and Fenny MOST importantly have in common?
Earlier in this curriculet we looked at parallel plots and the effects they have on how we perceive the story. As authors switch back and forth between plots, they usually update us on the progress each character makes towards his goals. Does Adams seem to be doing this? How would you describe the purpose of his plot structure in this novel so far?
What theme do Fenny and Arthur's actions in this chapter BEST connect to?
On a side note, Adams, as the story goes, was asked to publish this book, and took entirely too long to do so. His editor moved in with him, and made sure he made his deadlines (which he did not). His frustration with the process of writing a novel so quickly shows in this chapter, and he responds directly to the critics of his day. What criticisms is he dealing with here?
The language that Adams uses in this scene are meant to convey a _______ mood.
Part II Quiz
Adams is a master craftsman of characters. He has portrayed some complex characters, like Arthur and Fenny, but he also includes static, yet interesting figures, like Murray Bost Henson and the raffle lady at the pub. The video below explains the difference between these two types of characters. What role do minor, static characters play in this story? (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following traits MOST makes Murray a static character?
Take a moment and think about the purpose of this chapter in light of the genre of this book. We've talked about this story as both romantic comedy and a science fiction mystery. Which genre does this chapter have the feel of? Why?
A picture of the Santa Monica pier. One of California's most visited beaches, this site is where Arthur and Fenny go to find an answer to the puzzling question, "Where did all the dolphins go?". (This annotation contains an image)
In what significant way has Arthur MOST changed as indicated by this chapter?
David Bowie (shown below) is a singer and songwriter from England. He is a rock and roll icon, and reached his pinnacle of fame in the 1970s and 1980s. He is still well-known throughout the world, especially for his eclectic and intellectual contributions to rock and roll. (This annotation contains an image)
Watch the video below on motifs and answer the question that follows. (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following motifs reappears in this chapter to suggest a connection between a person's inner chaos and his or her outer world?
Notice the repetition of this phrase--"with a gasp in his voice"-- that is used in the dialogue. Adams is adding a dramatic and humorous effect to this climactic moment to stress its importance but also make it comedic. If you imagine the characters doing as Adams suggest, it's easier to find the humor in this incident.
What overall impact does the fishbowl now have upon the plot?
This odd news report connects two seemingly unrelated events--the Rain God and the disappearance of the dolphins--together. We don't know why, yet. Throughout this novel, Adams has connected random events in unusual ways. Other times, what we think will happen, does not. Can you trust that Adams is foreshadowing for you?
"Galactic towels" are a motif that are MOST associated with which aspect of a hitchhiker's quest?
Ford Prefect (shown below) is a well-known character from the other Hitchhiker's stories, who rescues Arthur and leads him through the galaxy on his quests. Do you think Ford is presented as a static or complex character in this story so far? What traits would you use to characterize him? (This annotation contains an image)
In what way does Adams MOST sharply contrast Ford and Arthur?
To British readers, these locations and stores would be well-known. Harvey Nichols (shown below), Harrods, and Sheraton Park Tower are all located within central London. (This annotation contains an image)
What do the events in this chapter MOST portray about Ford Prefect?
How did you imagine Fenny, Arthur, and Ford would hitchhike into space? Adams' plots are predictable in the general sense of the word, but how things actually play it out is quite different than what most readers expect. What have you learned to expect from Adams as this story unfolds? Do you think his style of absurd surprises is effective?
What statement is Adams MOST likely trying to make about Ford through the events in this novel?
At first, Ford appears to be a static character, who is nothing more than a dilettante, selfish drunkard. In his short visit to Earth, though, he shows a different side of himself. In what ways has Adams developed Ford through these last few chapters?
What mood do the souvenir booths at the entrance to this monument create?
Adams builds up the suspense to see God's final message (see artwork below). But he doesn't directly tell you. You have to spell it out (both literally and figuratively!). What effect does the ending of this story have on you? How was it different than what you expected? (This annotation contains an image)
What do both the drawing (in the annotation above) and Adams' description of the final scene emphasize?
Part III Quiz