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The Hitchhiker's Guide to Irony

Using Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in the Swedish upper secondary English 5 classroom to teach irony in English communication.


  • Simon Torffvit

Summary, in English

In this paper, I explore how Douglas Adams’ comedic 1979 science-fiction novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy could be used to improve English as a foreign language (EFL) learners’ understanding of irony. Specifically, the study is based on criteria for the English 5 course in Swedish upper secondary school and is performed using a combined theoretical framework of Dan Sperber and Deidre Wilson’s principle of relevance and Paul Grice’s maxims of conversation. This essay suggests that even non-verbal irony, such as dramatic irony, cosmic irony or other situational irony, can fit into these frameworks. The theories are used to analyze excerpts from the novel’s prologue and dialogue accompanied by a section for analyzing the cosmic irony of the novel. The results show that The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a useful and plentiful source of irony. Characters such as the protagonist Arthur and the supporting character Marvin are written to consistently produce verbal irony by flouting the maxim of Quality. The author also flouts the maxim of Relation in his portrayal of situational, dramatic and cosmic irony. Since the novel additionally tackles complex philosophical and ethical issues in an ironic and humorous way, the novel is a given fit for the English 5 course by fulfilling several content criteria from the Swedish National Agency for Education.


Publishing year




Document type

Student publication for Bachelor's degree


  • Languages and Literatures


  • irony
  • humor
  • principle of relevance
  • literature teaching
  • English as a Foreign Language
  • EFL
  • maxims of conversation
  • close reading
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy


  • Claes Lindskog