The answer is 42. But what is the question?
Douglas Adams’ take on the Universe and everything in it is that, really, it’s just a bit of a joke. There isn’t a grand meaning, as decades of science looks to discover. It is, in fact, bumbling along like we are.
Take Earth’s last resident, unknowingly hitchhiking off of earth in its final seconds. He is quintessentially British. He grumbles, he rationalises, he seeks tea. Or Marvin, the robot who is sick of all the uppity, positive computer systems surrounding him and is by all accounts depressed. Spend a moment with him and you’ll feel a little sad too.
Ford ended up stranded on Earth for 15 years too long, Trillian discovers her pet mice are actually more intelligent and powerful beings than her, and Zaphod masterminded one of the greatest thefts of the age and he doesn’t even know why. They just kind of bumble along, and that’s why it’s good.
Even the species they encounter don’t seem particularly grand: they’re terrible at writing and reciting poetry, they don’t get job satisfaction even after winning an award for designing Norway. Life isn’t grand, it isn’t full of greater meaning, it just kind of… is. This is a world where a sad robot can chat to a ship to pass the time, and have its mechanical conversation partner commit suicide.
It’s funny. The brilliance of it is its simplicity, and instead of having a round of protagonists demanding a reason for their existence, they just kind of blindly go on with what they’re doing, whatever that is, and whether or not they actually know why.
Can someone tell me why I didn’t read this until now? On to the next!