Hitch-Hiker-Twilight Zone 1×16

The Hitch-Hiker Meanings and Interpretations


“The Hitch-Hiker” is a story about the fear of death. Throughout this entire Twilight Zone episode, Nan Adams is seen running away from a mysterious man hitchhiking. This hitchhiker is the symbol for death and he continues to follow Nan Adams through the episode as she tries to flee from him. During the opening narration of the episode, Rod Serling mentions that Nan had an accident on the road, but it is never really elaborated on. Nan first sees this hitchhiker after this accident, and the hitchhiker relentlessly follows her. When talking about the hitchhiker at the beginning of the episode, Nan says the following:

“I don’t know why it is, but I’m frightened. A fear just about as vague as its object; maybe it isn’t just a fear so much as a sense of disquiet. A feeling that seems a little wrong. It’s vague because that’s what that hitchhiker is; he’s vague.”

Through this description, you can see that Nan is talking about death even though at this point in the episode we are unaware of the hitchhiker’s true meaning. Nan doesn’t know she is dead, but she feels frightened because death is very vague because not knowing what is on the other side scares people tremendously. She also feels something is a little wrong simply because she is continually followed by this man, when in reality it all feels wrong because she is already dead and it is just death looming over her.

So while the hitchhiker continues to follow Nan through the night, when Nan talks to anybody about the hitchhiker, she doesn’t outright tell them that the man has been following her. It is as if she is denying the hitchhiker’s existence, which is to deny death itself. Eventually, Nan becomes mad because of the hitchhiker. She says that she needs to keep driving and does nothing but drive away from the hitchhiker. Nan panics and states that she needs to get to where she is going, but she has no idea where she is going. This symbolizes peoples’ rejection of death and desire to keep away from it.

Finally, at the climax of this Twilight Zone episode, Nan decides that she’ll call her mother. However, it turns out that her mother had a nervous breakdown after finding out her daughter had died in the car accident mentioned at the beginning of the episode. She then realizes that the hitchhiker symbolizes death, meaning he wants to take her away. The hitchhiker then appears in the back of her car and says, “I believe you’re going… my way.” This means that Nan Adams has finally come to accept her death and will ride with the hitchhiker to her next destination: the afterlife.