Anonymous
Anonymous asked in Arts & HumanitiesBooks & Authors · 4 years ago

# Mostly Harmless?

Ok.. I just finished the book Mostly Harmless by D.Adams.

However,

1) I still don't understand the importance of the number 42.

2) I still don't know what the "Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, And Everything" is.

3) And did everyone die at the end?

Relevance
• Anonymous
4 years ago

The final 42 resolution

At the end of Mostly Harmless, which is the last of the series of novels, there is a final reference as Arthur and Ford are dropped off at Club Stavro Mueller Beta:

“ 'Just there, number forty two,' shouted Ford Prefect to the taxi-driver. 'Right here!'[9] ”

The entire Earth (in every version of the Whole Sort of General Mishmash) is destroyed by the Grebulon Leader in a "most terrible catastrophe"[9] soon after this final 42 reference. This opens the possibility that the ultimate question is simply something along the lines of 'Where does it all end?', as the book, series and lives of several main characters end then and there.

 Adams and the choice of the number 42

Douglas Adams was asked many times during his career why he chose the number 42. Many theories were proposed,[10] but he rejected them all. On November 3, 1993, he gave an answer[11] on alt.fan.douglas-adams:

“ The answer to this is very simple. It was a joke. It had to be a number, an ordinary, smallish number, and I chose that one. Binary representations, base thirteen, Tibetan monks are all complete nonsense. I sat at my desk, stared into the garden and thought '42 will do.' I typed it out. End of story. ”

Adams described his choice as "A completely ordinary number, a number not just divisible by two but also six and seven. In fact it's the sort of number that you could, without any fear, introduce to your parents."[1]

Despite these disclaimers, many other possible reasons for this choice have been put forward.

 Base 13

Some readers saw that 613 × 913 = 4213 (using base 13). Douglas Adams later joked about his choice, saying:[12]

“ I may be a sorry case, but I don't write jokes in base 13. ”

4213 is read as "four two base thirteen" or "four thirteens and two" not "forty two base thirteen" as the four is not in a "tens" column.

 Video Arts theory

Whilst 42 was a number with no hidden meaning, Adams explained in more detail in an interview with Iain Johnstone of BBC Radio 4 (recorded in 1998 though never broadcast[13]) to celebrate the first radio broadcast's 20th anniversary. Having decided it should be a number, he tried to think what an "ordinary number" should be. He ruled out non-integers, then he remembered having worked as a "prop-borrower" for John Cleese on his Video Arts training videos.

Cleese needed a funny number for the punchline to a sketch involving a bank teller (himself) and a customer (Tim Brooke-Taylor). Adams believed that the number that Cleese came up with was 42 and he decided to use it.[14]

 The 1977 Burkiss Way: 42 Logical Positivism Avenue

Adams had also written a sketch for The Burkiss Way called "42 Logical Positivism Avenue", broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 12 January 1977[15] - 14 months before the Hitchhiker's Guide first broadcast "42" in fit the fourth, 29 March 1978.[1]

Burkiss Way, "Logical Positivism" sketch excerpt

An excerpt from Douglas Adam's The Burkiss Way sketch, "Logical Positivism" excerpt

Problems listening to the file? See media help.

In a radio interview with the show "Book Club" in January of the year 2000 the question posed by one of the panel members was "Where does the number 42 come from?" The answer given was that Adams was on his way to work one morning, whilst still writing the scene, and was thinking about what the actual answer should be. He eventually decided that it should be something that made no sense whatsoever- a number, and a mundane one at that. And that is how he arrived at the number 42, completely at random.[citation needed]

 Stephen Fry

Stephen Fry, a friend of Adams, claims that Adams told him "exactly why 42", and that the reason is[16]

“ fascinating, extraordinary and, when you think hard about it, completely obvious. ”

However, Fry says that he has vowed not to tell anyone the secret, and that it must go with him to the grave.

 John Lloyd

John Lloyd, Adams' collaborator on The Meaning of Liff and two Hitchhikers fits said that Douglas has called 42[17]

“ The funniest of the two digit numbers ”

 To Everywhere in 42 Minutes

In 1965, mathematician Paul Cooper theorized that the fastest, most efficient way to travel across continents would be to bore a straight hollow tube directly through the earth, evacuate it (remove the air), and then just fall through. The first half of the journey consists of free-fall acceleration, while the second half consists of an exactly equal deceleration. The time for such a journey works out to be 42 minutes. Remarkably, even if the tube does not pass through the exact center of the earth, the time for a journey powered entirely by gravity always works out to be 42 minutes, as long as the tube remains friction-free.[18][19]