Comparing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

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Comparing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

In 1967, Tom Stoppard wrote his famous play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead after getting the idea while watching a production of Hamlet. Four years later, Douglas Adams got the idea for his Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy while lying drunk in a field in Innsbruck, Austria. In 1978, he would use this idea to produce a BBC radio show, which would be published as a novel in 1979. How can these two works be compared in their use of satire and cynicism?

There are many instances of satire in Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Adams begins his novel by describing the sun and goes on to say, "Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea." (1) By saying this, Adams shows that he does not think much of how humans are using technology, or their intelligence because they are so amazed by something fairly simple. According to Whissen, "Adam's message . . . is that too much thinking about things like the vastness of eternity and space and time can drive one mad. But instead of worrying about it, he takes control of it." (113) By presenting actual numbers, Adams puts the earth into the universe's perspective. Though humans tend to make themselves the center of the universe, they are actually a small insignificant speck in everything. Adams goes on to explain more about the humans and their plight. "Most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because . . . it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy." (1) While making a joke about humans and their general discontentedness, Adams takes a different look at the monetary system. People feel that money will make them happy, but it does not really work. Money is constantly being moved, yet that is not what is unhappy. People try to change other things to make themselves happy, but by this, Adams is suggesting that people should try to change themselves, rather than everything else.

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