Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
The Sense of a Journey in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Road
Both Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Road explore physical journeys and their psychological effects on individuals. The sense of these journeys allows for deep thematic explorations in which both Hunter S. Thompson and Cormac McCarthy challenge conformist ideologies. Whilst the hope of death providing closure in The Road is prominent, Fear and Loathing subverts the sense of an ending through the enmity of finality. In the era of social media, these journeys seem more prevalent with an increase in delusion (the illusion of ultimate freedom) and eccentric behaviours in the hopes of acquiring a false sense of recognition.
The physical journeys depicted in the two novels seem to have an impact on the emotional state of the characters.
Both Cormac McCarthy and Hunter S. Thompson demonstrate their environments as being antagonists. As Raoul Duke and his attorney settle into Las Vegas’s strange and unique environment, Thompson uses their adventures as a lens to critique American society and culture. One dominant motif in this section is the military. Duke encounters several members of the military and law enforcement in these chapters, and each time, he reacts very negatively to these men and what they represent. Duke has his first run-in with the military in Chapter 5, when he talks to a group of veterans who have come to watch the Mint 400. Duke is deeply disturbed by the patriotic iconography on their dune-buggy, but he pretends to share their cultural conservatism in order to send them on a wild goose chase after the journalist Peter Davis.
Duke’s animosity and paranoia towards the military can best be understood as a reaction to the Vietnam War, which was in its final years when Fear and Loathing was published in 1971.
Violence permeates the journeys of the characters in each of the novels. Duke’s violent impulses become even more prominent in this section of the novel. On multiple occasions, we see that he reflexively turns to violence when he is unsure how to handle a situation. The first example of this in Part II occurs when he pulls over in the desert to shoot iguanas. Later, he proposes pimping Lucy out as a prostitute and then murdering her when he realizes that she might report his attorney to the police for giving her LSD.
Duke’s violent tendencies are ironic because he criticizes violence when the police or the military are perpetrating it. He seems to be truly disturbed by the crime articles he reads in the newspaper and the reports about the Vietnam War he sees on television. In Chapter 1, he discards a magazine after reading about a man who clawed out his own eyes while using PCP, and he acts deeply agitated about the Vietnam War while speaking to the hotel operator on the phone. Yet despite this disgust, Duke still has frequent violent impulses of his own. Although Thompson often plays Duke’s hypocrisy for laughs, the contradiction hints at the author’s dark, misanthropic worldview. All of the characters in Thompson’s work have a violent side regardless of whether they self-identify as part of the counterculture or the ‘establishment’.
Duke explains that the mid-sixties was a special time in American culture, characterized by a “sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. He ruminates on the fact that at the time, those who participated in the 60s counterculture thought they were invincible and that the world was changing rapidly and permanently. Looking back on it, he believes that everything that was meaningful about the sixties has now disintegrated.
Both Thompson and McCarthy demonstrate the freedom and its shortcomings. Thompson’s portrayal of drug use is gritty and often contradictory. Raoul Duke embraces drugs, especially psychedelics, as a means of escaping the injustices of American society. He looks back fondly on the drug culture of the 1960s, and he spends most of the novel under the influence of one or more drugs. However, unlike his contemporaries Allen Ginsberg, Ken Kesey, and Timothy Leary, Thompson does not explicitly advocate the use of LSD in this text. Indeed, his portrayal of the psychedelic experience is often quite negative. Although Duke sees LSD as a means of escape, many of his trips quickly lead to violence and anxiety, which are exactly what Duke is trying to avoid in the first place.
The ending of Fear and Loathing is symbolic of how we each travel on our own road alone.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and the Influence of the Counter Cultural Movement
History is something that defines us, it is also something that influences us.
Everything in our history has led us to this moment here, the moment that you are reading this. Whether you like it or not our own individual history defines who you are and who you want to be. In Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson, the main protagonist, Raoul Duke, (aka Hunter S. Thompson) documents his journey “gonzo style” showing the effects of the counterculture movement of the 1960s.
During the 1960’s and the 1970’s tensions were rising due to race, sexual preferences and social traditions, ultimately sparking the counterculture movement of the 1960’s. In Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas there are many references of this movement and the main character Raoul Duke could even be seen as a symbol to this movement. One example of this was when Raoul returned to the hotel room which he was sharing with Dr. Gonzo who was listening to white rabbit, “White Rabbit,” he said. “I want a rising sound.” It is very interesting that Dr.gonzo asked for this specific song because White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane is an iconic counterculture song released in 1967, the peak of the counterculture movement and also during the summer of love. It was basically their anthem, “One pill makes you larger And one pill makes you small, And the ones that mother gives you, Don’t do anything at all.” this is a quote from the song “white Rabbit” it describes the illicit drug use that was commonly seen during this time period because of the counterculture movement. Another reference this book has to the counterculture movement was when Raoul said, “San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run… but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were here and alive in that corner of time and the world.” This is directly referencing the movement in the 1960’s. Raoul recalls this time as special, he said that there are no words to describe that time period and just being a part of this movement and seeing it was spectacular. It shows that the author was very supportive of this new counterculture and that it seems like he was actually actively involved in this movement as well. This quote could also be referencing the “Summer of Love” in 1967 in San Francisco and how tens of thousands of people, mainly hippies, gathered together. Raoul was very dedicated and enthusiastic towards this movement. However he knew that this movement would ultimately fail. Raoul said, “All those pathetically eager acid freaks who thought they could buy Peace and Understanding for three bucks a hit.” Here you can show Raoul’s frustration, to him it seemed like he was the only one dedicated to this movement, that everyone else was just getting high thinking that the world would fix itself, but the truth is that it won’t, that there is no amount of money that would fix the world. Raoul also stated that the counterculture created, “a generation of permanent cripples” This is because people at the time only wanted to do drugs and get high. That they weren’t willing to put in the work to get the change that they wanted. So, the movement at last crumbled.
The counterculture movement of the 1960 also gave birth to the drug culture, an era that was highly influenced by the use of illicit drugs, the ones that messed you up the most. In Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo bring, “two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers and also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amyls.” This quote shows you that these guys are no strangers to drugs. Throughout this book drugs are mentioned on almost every page. This shows how prominent drugs were during the mid 1900s and especially during the counterculture movement. Duke argues that the drug culture was a result of the failure of the movement and that it is a response to the American culture. Raoul says, “Every now and then when your life gets complicated and the weasels start closing in, the only real cure is to load up on heinous chemicals”. To Raoul these drugs help him escape the reality of the world and he sees it as the only cure. The lifestyle of drugs and alcohol abuse is not a good life and it is a very slippery slope, Raoul acknowledges this however, he still is constantly under the affect of hardcore drugs it seems as though he would rather be high than face the world for what it is. Raoul Duke is also a representation of the counterculture movement, and that quote shows how the people involved in this movement acted. They were always heavily influenced by the use of illegal drugs which ultimately led to the failure of the movement. Raoul believes that the drug culture won’t be fixed until the American culture is fixed because when the culture is fixed, there will be no reason to use drugs. However, this “fix” doesn’t seem like it will be coming any time soon.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas has a lot deeper meanings and concepts than what you might think. There is a lot of hidden knowledge that an average reader would miss. The author really dives deep into the major problems of American culture, especially the failure of the counterculture of the 1960s. He also gives a glance of the birth of a drug culture in the 1970’s. As Hunter S. Thompson once said, “Some may never live but the crazy never die”.
- Boundless. “Boundless US History.” Lumen, courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-ushistory/chapter/counterculture/. This source is about the counterculture. It describes what a counterculture is and it describes how the counterculture of the 1960s happened. It talks about the ideals and interests of this movement as well as the music and culture that it brought.
- Chepkemoi, Joyce. “What Was The Counterculture Of The 1960s and 1970s?” WorldAtlas, 30 Nov. 2016, www.worldatlas.com/articles/what-was-the-counterculture-of-the-1960s-and-70s.html This source also talks about the counterculture movement and the effects it has. It ties In Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas so it shows how the movement directly influenced the book. It also talks about how Hunter S Thompson was an advocate for this movement and how he ultimately knew this movement would fail.
- Gorton, Thomas. “Hunter S. Thompson’s Daily Routine of Drugs and Booze.” Dazed, 6 Jan. 2016, www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/29029/1/hunter-s-thompson-s-daily-routine-of-drugs-and-booze. This article is about Hunter s Thompson and the drugs he used throughout his life. The book I read is basically the same way he lives. Which is not really caring about anything and doing a whole bunch of drugs. It talks about how he gets up at 3am and drinks whisky and snorts cocaine all day, then takes acid at 10 then begins to write his stories. I don’t understand how one person could do so much drugs. One thing I am curious about would be how much in his lifetime he spent on drugs.
- Thompson, Hunter S. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: a Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream. Langara College, 2019. This is the primary source, the book, fear and loathing. It’s about a guy named Hunter S Thompson and he documents his life, more specifically his time in Las Vegas. It talks about all the drugs he does and how he documents the mint 300 which is a race he is told to write about for a magazine company.
- Ulin, David L. “Why’s This So Good? Hunter S. Thompson and ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.’” Nieman Storyboard, 13 Apr. 2017, niemanstoryboard.org/stories/whys-this-so-good-hunter-s-thompson-and-fear-and-loathing-in-las-vegas/ This article specifically takes about gonzo journalism. It talks about why it was such a good hit in the time it was made. It goes into it with great detail with lots of quotes from fear and loathing. It talks a lot about the context of the book. It talks about the chaotic life that he had and how his life isn’t like everyone else’s life and that’s why it is so good.
The Comparison of Two Individuals Human Mind: A Clockwork Orange and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
The human brain is compiled of many distinct areas, ranging from the forebrain, midbrain, and hindbrain. If we go deeper, we enter the human mind where all one’s emotions, consciousness, and thoughts reside. Sigmund Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis emphasizes on the fact that the human psyche is developed of three distinct components: the id, ego, and superego. The complexity of these three components goes into depth where each plays a key role in one’s psyche and thus develops one’s personality. However, there are certain aspects in life which can alter these states resulting in a changed personality.
In the novels, A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgees, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson, Freud’s theory is present as the abuse of substances potentially results in the immoral actions and behaviour, and most importantly, isolates them from reality. This is shown through the characters Alex Delarge shadowing his evil conscience with his urge for violence and Raoul Duke abusing stimulants to avoid his failure during his journey to finding the state with the American Dream.
The id consists of one’s desires and consists of one’s incapability to control themselves as they dream about what they desire disregarding the thought of any possible consequence they would face prior to the action. Alex is a teen and his id consists of exploring new substances from the Korova Milk bar. Alex goes from a peaceful person to a barbaric person when he leaves the milk bar as he views everyone as weaker foes and he believes he can harm anyone without them fighting back. When Alex and his gang decide to show their dominance to a weak and defenceless homeless man for his newspaper, they physically assault the poor man to the extent where he loses consciousness. From the viewpoint of the homeless man, he tells Alex that his life does not matter to him regardless and wishes for his own death, “go on, do me in, you bastard cowards, I don’t want to live anyway, not in a stinking world like this one. Only one of you can understand my pain, that one. You!…Don’t go to that milk bar again you beast!” (Burgess, 12). This quote shows how vigorous Alex is for his desires. Such a mindset would be very effective in the new generation of technology. There is a vast difference in fighting a man who can fight back and fighting a man who is helpless who has done nothing wrong to one. The gang also resides on Alex’s wishes, but since Alex has crossed the line and beat up a helpless man, Dim self-motivates himself that he should leave the gang. However, Dim is an important person for Alex as his loss of connection with the gang and immoral actions are what cause Alex to go back to Korova Milk bar and abuse more drugs since he has nothing to focus on in life but them. Ultimately, if Dim leaves the gang, Alex will go completely crazy and turn into a psychopathic killer. There is no school in the futuristic England, or incredibly few educated citizens attend it, which is why Alex is surprised when he sees a man walking with books in his hand. All of Alex’s insane and immoral actions go back to the initiation of these thoughts which are triggered when he goes to the milk bar. The abuse of such addictive drugs at such a young age, where his psyche is not even completely developed, foreshadow the likely insane being he will become in the future.
Raoul Duke is different from Alex since he is older and has lived the life that Alex is living. However, his childhood and Alex’s were quite different. The author, Hunter S. Thompson has subjected his personal life into Raoul, therefore Raoul’s father dies when he is young and therefore he works hard to become successful, which he succeeds in. Currently Raoul and his attorney are in their anal stage in the five psychosexual stages of their life. Just like the author, Raoul is subjected to intaking highly addictive stimulants and being an alcoholic and this leads to the destruction and altering of their personality. For instance, prior to them taking a couple of doses of these stimulants, they go to a restaurant. Duke suddenly shows a mood swing to the waitress when he yells, “‘Get over here you maiden! Hurry up and give me the goddamn menu so I can get food and leave. Don’t you know I’m on an important journey right now?’ The waitress shamefully came and gave the menu to Duke and the attorney sat there waiting for him to order” (Thompson 120). The constant abuse of drugs stimulates the tolerance in one’s brain which resolves the brain to not always be happy. Duke is addicted to such euphoric drugs that his dopamine binding receptors are probably shut down by 50%. This causes him to have sudden mood swings and outrages portrayed in the quote. Unlike Alex, Duke does not take these drugs for his own amusement, but he does it to isolate him from reality. On this quest for the American Dream state, Raoul still remains an anti-hero which does nothing but give him outrage. To resolve his addiction, we can connect him to the author, Hunter S. Thompson since he is importing his past into Raoul. None of the states he has been to have shown to follow the American Dream which is giving everyone an equal opportunity to become successful. In the time era popular of drugs and alcohol abuse, there was a simple solution for Thompson’s misery following his unaccomplished id as a child (loss of father at a young age). Ultimately, we truly see how the abuse of a certain substance can impact one’s id and isolate them from reality, thus causing them to show immoral behaviour.
The ego develops from the id and ensures that the impulses of the id can be expressed in a manner acceptable in the real world. The part of the mind which balances one’s instincts with reality. When Alex is arrested, the government takes away his freedom including the access to Korova Milk bar which has a super psychological and physiological effect on him. Knowing that he is arrested and in custody of the government, his ego is aware that he has guidelines and rules to follow otherwise there will be consequences. For instance, Alex, before he is arrested, one of his favourite hobbies included listening to music. Prior to his arrest, Alex has received withdrawal symptoms. These involve resisting the activities, substances, or things he once did. Therefore, when the music plays, he goes crazy. He says, “there I was, me who had loved music so much, crawling off the bed and going oh oh oh to myself, and then bang bang banging on the wall screeching stop, stop it, turn it off! But it went on and it seemed to be like louder. So I crashed at the wall till my knuckles were all red” (Burgess, 115). Due to Alex’s initial response towards the music playing, Alex expresses withdrawal symptoms which gives a sign that he was addicted. His mind is now trying to comprehend with the music that he once listened to for relaxation and which he was passionate for. We also experience some withdrawal symptoms of his addiction with music when it plays on the radio. His id tries to listen to it, but his ego simply does not correlate since he has been prevented from his priority addictions such as the drugs and his friends. Which is why he proceeds to smash the radio countless times. Alex experiences regrets now that his id is limited to certain extents. He is aware of what he is allowed to which set the tone for him. The clockwork symbolizes Alex prior to his arrest; the government controls Alex and his actions, if he does anything wrong, he will be likely in severe danger. His withdrawal symptoms trigger the ego to develop more hatred towards the government since they are responsible for restricting his freedom.
Raoul’s ego is filled with nothing but despair due to the fact that he has not accomplished his goal on this journey to Las Vegas. When him and his attorney finally arrive to Vegas after two days, Raoul is in disbelief but at the same time he not surprised. His ego balanced his id which desires of only finding the state with the American Dream motto, and reality; there is no state that follows the American Dream motto. The first thing Raoul notices about Vegas is the abundance of casinos. Raoul tells his attorney, “‘Damn. This whole road trip just to see a bunch of f**king lights and tall a** buildings with these stupid cops standing around here acting like they are doing their job. Give me another bottle, I’m not having any of this’” (Thompson 145). Raoul is completely disgusted by the fact that no state in America wishes the equal opportunity for every citizen to have a chance to become successful. His desire in finding the perfect state is losing more hope than ever. At this point, Raoul’s ego tells him to drink another beer and smoke another cigarette in order to release some stress and isolate himself from reality. Raoul’s addiction to these substances not only increase his chances for cancer, but furthermore, they will alter his personality. We see glimpses of the results of his altered personality when he talks to the waitress in an immoral and unethical manner. Raoul is committed to finding the perfect state and is convinced that there has to be once, since he did become rich from nothing. Which is why the concept of richness correlates to one’s ego. Raoul implemented the concept of power through the money and wealth in Las Vegas. When one has plenty of money to do what ever they would like, it increases their ego since more aspects of life become realistic, such as dreams that one once has a child. This leads to the lust of more money and increases the egotistical level of one resulting in immoral behaviours towards the people financially under them. Therefore, Raoul refers to Las Vegas as the place for businessmen, since they have the most knowledge in making tons of money. Overall, we witness how the abuse of certain substance allows Raoul to isolate himself from the real world and indulge the euphoria his brain develops.
Finally, the id plays a powerful concept as one’s desires are the only thing the id consists of. Before Alex is arrested and becomes a clockwork orange of the government, life is good for him. He does whatever his id desires of, disregarding the fact if the action is moral or immoral. For instance, we talked about Alex and his addiction to euphoric drugs at the Korova Milk bar. This addiction causes Alex to become a maniac who psychologically feels powerful like he is a king or an emperor. When Alex rapes woman, she is in pain and screams at him to stop, yet he does not stop because that is what his id desires of. Meanwhile Dim is outside waiting for Alex and he is aware that he is doing an immoral act not stopping him, but the fear of Alex prevents him from doing anything. When Alex is done with the woman he comes outside and tells Dim, “she like tried to lever herself up from the floor, so I gave her a malenky fair kick in the litso, and she didn’t like that crying Waaaaah, and you could viddy her veiny mottled litso going purplewurple where I’d landed the old noga” (Burgess, 48). Alex has crossed the limits vigorously and without showing any regret. Not only did Alex just sexually assault a woman and destroy her possessions, but also have her husband watch truly manifests his insanity and what he is capable of. According to Freud’s theory, “The id consists of the sex life instinct – Eros and the aggressive instinct – Thanatos” (McLeod, 2007). All these three key features of the id – sex life instinct, Eros, and the aggressive instinct were present here as once Alex had a mindset of performing certain actions on her and no one could stop him. Prior to his actions, what he says to Dim ultimately shows his insanity as he thinks of it as a normal action and shows no regrets. Alex enjoys raping the women as he receives pleasure from it, thus he does not think about the lady he is raping and how much damage he is causing not to only her, but to her husband as well who is watching the whole incident. Ultimately, all of Alex’s actions are what he cannot control due to the drugs. He is so triggered to the euphoric feeling that he does whatever it takes to feel that way again, thus showing his immoral side without any regrets.
Raoul is characterized by Thompson to be an anti-hero in the end. After working so hard from his childhood, his psyche now being completely developed, he is in his genital stage which means his ego and superego have been completely developed. However, drawbacks due occur because growing up Raoul does not have a father, which could be a loss of valuable life lesson teachings he could have gotten from his father. Near the end of the novel, when his journey comes to an end, even though he did not attain what he went to search for, his id desires for isolation from reality. He is in distress that he could not find the state with an American Dream motto. He regrets everything he did on the come up to success when he says, “‘Why bother with newspapers, if this is all they offer? Agnew was right. The press is a gang of cruel faggots. Journalism is not a profession or a trade. It is a cheap catch-all for f***offs and misfits’” (Thompson 200). Coming from poverty and becoming wealthy shows and searching for the American Dream shows that not only was Raoul blessed by the lord, but the loss of his father did not lead him into the immoral direction, even though many acts he does are immoral. Raoul uses his addiction of extreme stimulants like cocaine, LSD, meth, etc. to feel euphoric and isolate himself from the real world and take him to a psychological place where everything is perfect and where he can find the American Dream. At this point in his life, he is done with everything including his career and his quest. He is just focused on being happy, however, due to the failure in his journey, he needs the assistance of the hardcore stimulants. His ego cannot reside with reality, thus his id desires for the euphoric feeling which will take him into his perfect world.
The novels, A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgees, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson ultimately prove that the human mind in correlation with addictive substances can not only alter one’s mind but results in immoral actions and separation from reality. We witness the destruction of Alex’s id through the use of psychedelics in Korova Milk bar and also see how the abuse of stimulants such as LSD alter Raoul’s id and resolve him into becoming a different person.
Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: Hippie Generation Portrayal
In The United States during the 60’s and 70’s, many U.S. citizens opposed the U.S involvement in the Vietnam war, as well as domestic issues that included racial discrimination. These lead to the counterculture movement, where younger generation of Americans rejected societal norms by taking large amounts of drugs,, indulging in lots of sexual intercourse, and listening to psychedelic rock. These americas later became known as the hippie generation. This generation created many works of art and literature, such as Hunter S. Thompson’s 1971 novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey into the Heart of the American Dream. The semi-fictional novel is a firsthand account of what the Hippie Generation was all about, and is an accurate story of the Hippie generation,
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey into the Heart of the American Dream follows the life of journalist Raoul Duke and his Attorney Dr. Gonzo as they go to Las Vegas to cover the Mint 400, an off road racing event. The characters are supposed to represent the author Hunter S. Thompson and his friend Oscar Zeta Acosta, and the events that take place in the novel are the true experiences of his young self. The main characters in this story are always in constant pursuit of drug-induced euphoria, and take any kind of drugs when they can. As a result, the story, told from Raoul Duke’s point of view, is a mixture of real events and drug-induced hallucinations, The novel tells of their stay in Las Vegas as Raoul Duke covers the Mint 400 as well as a seminar that is ironically about illegal drug use. Throughout the story,duke constantly mentions the pursuit of “the American dream” which he attempts to interpret. This “American dream”seems to be lost in all the wildness of the drug induced Las Vegas trip. The two’s’ trip to Vegas is an example of the behavior and mindset of the Hippie generation.
The timeframe for this novel is in the early 70’s, right as the Vietnam war was coming to an end, the civil rights movement had begun, and counterculture was everywhere. At some points, the novel quickly speaks about current events regarding the Vietnam war, which was one of the biggest causes for the movement. “WASHINGTON (AP) – A House Subcommittee report says illegal drugs killed 160 American GI’s last year – 40 of them in Vietnam” (25).Actually, the Vietnam War was opposed by the public due to the media criticism on the issue of U.S military brutality towards the civilians.. The passage is in reference to the issue of drug abuse by soldiers during the war, which killed many of them. The use of drugs by soldiers was coincidental with hippies in the counterculture movement, much like Duke and Gonzo. Soldiers used the drugs to help relieve them of the immense pain, on the other hand, the hippies just wanted to have fun. Nonetheless, article pieces like this and the massive amount of drug use throughout the book accurately reference the time period of the Vietnam war. Another example of historical accuracy can be found in Raoul Duke’s pursuit of understanding “The American Dream”.
Throughout his journey, Raoul Duke mentions the American dream pretty cynically. He said,“You have no faith in the essential decency of the white man’s culture. Jesus, just one hour ago we were sitting over there in that stinking baiginio, stone broke and paralyzed for the weekend, when a call comes through from some total stranger in New York, telling me to go to Las Vegas…and then he sends me over to some strange office in Beverly Hills where another total stranger gives me $300 raw cash for no reason at all . . . I tell you, my man, this is the American dream in action! We’d be fools not to ride this strange torpedo all the way out to the end” (11). The “American dream” that Duke talks about are the great things, which he critiques. when, he criticises the ideal of American capitalism, as he finds out how crazy it is for a potential employer to give him large amounts of cash. This shows of the counterculture movement during the 1970s. Hippies hated normal American ideas such as capitalism, as shown by the character. This is normal from several counterculture developments in history. One of those movements was the “new left”movement. “where college students criticized things such as pression, corruption and racism as basic flaws in the structure of America. They were called the “new left”, to show both the similarities and differences of their ideas with older socialist and communist ones” (ucdavis.edu: “New Left” ). The New Left movement advocated for social equality, and was slightly communist, and always was against American capitalism. Raoul Duke also shows the counterculture theme of social equality. Throughout the book, Dr. Gonzo is harassed and attacked wherever the two go due to his Samoan heritage. Duke finds the racism to be just a part of American culture, the same idea the hippies of the time had.
I enjoyed reading this book and had already watched the movie beforehand. It is very interesting the way Hunter S. Thompson incorporates graphic drug hallucinations into reality, as it gives a real feel to what it is like to be on drugs. It was interesting to read a firsthand account of the counterculture movement. Hunter s. Thompson invented Gonzo journalism, so that also made it an interesting read. I liked watching the movie but reading the book made it a lot better. The way he described being high on drugs was very entertaining. Even if you don’t have time to watch the movie, the way the book was written is still very good and draws the scenes into your mind. Overall, i do recommend that people read and enjoy this book
Madness Portrayed through Diction and Tone in Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
In Hunter S. Thomas’s work, (an excerpt from) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, diction is used in a way to really complement the imagery that it portrays. Thompson also uses diction and tone to relate the many negative connotations within the text, and to express his overall point of madness, again and again.
Within Thompson’s work the use of the type of diction can be a strong indicator of the message that is trying to be relayed. Within the first paragraph alone there are examples of this extreme diction. In the first line the text reads, “ The Circus-Circus is what the whole hep world would be doing on Saturday night if the Nazis had won the war. (Thompson pg 407)” Within this sentence alone there are several examples of the informal and slang diction Thomas uses throughout his work. The, “…whole hep world” can be related to the slang portion of diction. Slang is characteristically more metaphorical and playful, which can be seen in the text, “…if the Nazis had won the war.” This statement suggests that Thompson has a cynical outlook from the very beginning towards the Circus-Circus establishment. Thompson continues to use this style of diction saying, “ This is the Sixth Reich. (pg.407) ” The fact that Thompson would compare the Third Reich (the Nazi government in Germany between 1933-1945) to the Circus-Circus really drives home exactly the environment that Thompson is trying to relay. In addition, the fact that Thompson referred to Circus-Circus as the Sixth Reich instead of the fourth relates an even deeper meaning behind the text. Considering that Nazi Germany was only in its Third Reich when they were defeated, would leave the reader to assume that Circus-Circus is so tortuous to its patrons that it skipped all the Reichs in between, and was promoted straight up to the sixth. The use of the term “Sixth Reich” can even be related to the mark of the devil considering it is the sixth reich, which surpassed three non-existent reichs. This establishment, in the eyes of Thompson, is the epicenter of the loosely moraled man (or woman). Thompson chose to use the diction in a way to relate the metaphorical meaning more often than the expected. This usage may confuse the reader, and thus, the point of the text goes unknown. This practice is common and often critiqued as it has been in the following text, “…for the imagery and the rhythm are not merely the instruments by which this fancied core-of-meaning-which-can-be-expressed-in-a-paraphrase is directly rendered…their mediation is not positive and direct. Indeed, whatever statement we may seize upon as incorporating the “meaning” of the poem, immediately the imagery and rhythm seem to set up the tensions with it, warping and twisting it, qualifying and revisiting it (Brooks pg 197).” Thompson has chosen the indirect mode of diction, which relates to the over sense of madness within the work.
The choice of the diction relates to the overall negative tone of the work. In the first paragraph the text reads, “ …but the place is about four stories high, in the style of a circus tent, and all manner of strange Country-Fair/ Polish Carnival madness is going on up there… (pg. 408)” Thompson repeated usage of the term “high” relates a sense of the Circus-Circus being larger than life. The use of this motif is shown again a few lines down, “…the Forty Flying Carazito Brothers are doing a high-wire trapeze act…” Thompsons useage of this motif can be linked to the idea that the environment has that larger than life feel, but also that the patrons are all under the influence of alcohol (this is a casino after all), and thus, might feel like they are high up in the air with the performers. It’s this dark intensity that is transmitted throughout Thompson’s work, and very evident in his choice of diction and relating tone.
In the last paragraph of the work Thompson goes on to say, “…Reality itself is too twisted(p.408).” This statement reveals again the overall sense of immoral behavior and dark intentions, when it is associated with the usage of these intoxicants by the patrons. The fact that Thompson chose the word “twisted” in the quote above is an example, again, of these negative connotation within his diction. The word twisted itself brings up images of dishevelment, and general uneasiness, which can be linked by to Thompsons overall message of madness within the text. The quote above can even be interpreted from, “Reality itself is too twisted,” to reality has now surpassed insanity. This statement delivers, once again, Thompsons obsession with madness within the text. This obsession with madness, and with the strange and unusual, can be seen throughout the text; with Thompsons uses of specific words. In particular the term “Bizarre” (in the second paragraph, line four) really jumps out as unusual. This word, “bizarre,” takes on double meaning within the text. The term can be interpreted as meaning a open market with random or strange additions. This definition alone takes on the characteristics of the patrons; a random and strange group of individuals.
Thompsons continues to use terms that bring up images of dishevelment and chaos, so to speak. He uses words such as, “funhouse, carnival, and circus,” which at first glance bring up images of easy going fun, however with the overall tone of the work these words take on new meaning. These words (“funhouse, carnival, and circus”) from the very beginning give off, within Thompson’s work, a sense of insanity or even entrapment, which can be considered quite ironic.
Another example of irony has also found its way into Hunter Thompson’s work, (an excerpt from) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. At the end of the second paragraph Thompson goes on to say, “ Stand in front of this fantastic machine, my friend, and for just 99¢ your likeness will appear, two hundred feet tall, on a screen above downtown Las Vegas. Ninety-nine cents more for a voice message. “ ‘Say whatever you want fella. They’ll hear you, don’t worry about that. Remember you’ll be two hundred feet tall.’(p.408) ” This statement communicates a strong message of irony within its text. Some unknown person can for 1.98 be projected high into the night sky almost as if to say they are a sort of god. This person would feel a sense of importance as his face and message are related to hordes of the general public, but in reality this individual is just some joe schmoe who had a few extra quarters in his back pocket to spare.
Within Thompson’s work the theme of the “American Dream” can be found in the attitudes of the patrons of Circus-Circus. The fact that these individuals are allowed to go to a legitimate business and engage in these activities that can be seen as immoral to many, correlates with the idea of freedom within the American Dream. However, the attitudes of the patrons convey a strong paradox within the text. The fact that the patrons are able to engage in these scandalous and unethical activities contradicts what the “American Dream” is all about. With this having been said, the attitudes could also be considered the death of the American Dream. Nevertheless, these attitudes cannot be truly denied the title of the “American Dream”, because in the end the dream is to be free to chose your own path in life without fear of persecution, and these patrons have taken advantage of this and chosen their path. This is a perfect example of a paradox, which relates a message that seems absurd or contradictory, but in reality also contains a possible hidden truth. This particular device is often confusing for the reader and can be seen critique in the following text from the Well Wrought Urn, “ …for the frequent occurrence in the preceding chapter of such terms as “ambiguity”, “paradox”,…Perhaps they are inadequate. Perhaps they are misleading. It is to be hoped in that case that we can eventually improve upon them…But adequate terms…will have to be terms which do justice to the special kind of structure which seems to emerge as the common structure… (p.195)” This text parallels the idea that the text may be misunderstood when devices such as paradox come into the picture.
This idea of the “anti American Dream” can be found not only in the attitudes of the patrons, but also in the many references to illegal narcotics. In the last two paragraphs of the work, Thompson puts quite a lot of emphasis on phrases such as; “drug person”, “acid fanciers”, and “psychedelic drugs”. Thompsons use of these terms can be transcribed into the metaphorical motif of the “death of the American Dream”. Thompson goes on to say, “…But nobody can handle that other trip–the possibility that any freak with $1.98 can walk into Circus-Circus and suddenly appear in the sky over downtown Las Vegas…(p.408)” This statement reflects another bold statement by Thompson; that this town, Las Vegas, (and the Circus-Circus in particular) are so far away from reality that in comparison psychedelic drugs are the lesser of the two evils (in Thompson’s mind). Thompson acknowledges again, and again the insanity within this establishment. In the second paragraph he has this to say, “ This madness goes on and on, but nobody seems to notice. (p.408)” This statement confirms the idea of the patrons acceptance of madness, and in turn the death of the American Dream, so to speak. This statement also speaks to the idea that the patrons have completly zoned out of life. This idea can be backed up from this line of the text, “ Meanwhile, on all the upstairs balconies, the customers are being hustled by every conceivable kind of bizarre shuck. (p.408)” This quote brings to life the idea that these individual have, in a way, given up their free will, and are being “hustled” around. The word hustled, in the text, conveys two separate meanings. The first explanation being the original definition of being trick or coned. The second meaning relays a hidden agenda; that the carnies are “hustling” the patrons like cattle from one money trap to another; this is , in a way, where their freedom is being willingly surrendered.
Thompson references many controversial topics, including that of the Nazi variety. In the third paragraph he has this to say, “Jesus Christ, I could see myself lying in bed in the Mint Hotel, half-asleep and staring idly out the window, when suddenly a vicious nazi drunkard appears two hundred feet tall in the midnight sky, screaming gibberish at the world: ‘Woodstock Über Alles!’(p.408) ” The reference at the end of the quote relays the message, “ Woodstock Over Everything”, This message is a perfect example of a contradiction within the text. A contradiction is a mix of statements or ideas that oppose one another. The fact that Thompson chose to incorporate the Nazis ( a true picture of corruption and confinement) with the free flowing ideals of woodstock (which represented ultimate freedom in the 1960’s) openly represents a contradiction within his text. Thompson also chose to loosely resolve this contradiction; in the next paragraph he goes on to say, “ We will close the drapes tonight. (p.408)” Thompson choses to resolve this contradiction in the same manner in which the patrons of Circus- Circus conduct themselves; Thompson completely ignores it. He spends almost the entire work bashing the practice of ignoring the obscene, and yet, in the end, Thompson himself falls prey to the obscenity of Circus-Circus, and to Las Vegas herself.
Raoul Duke’s Chase For the American Dream
Creator of Stratton Oakmont, former stockbroker Jordan Belfort once commented on his employees saying, “They were drunk on youth, fueled by greed, and higher than kites.” Belfort served as the main protagonist in recent Oscar nominated film The Wolf of Wall Street; in the film Belfort becomes an extremely successful and wealthy stockbroker through the use of deception and corruption. In addition, the story features a wide array of drugs and prostitution as work on Wall Street is depicted as dirty and immoral. Belfort is eventually consumed by greed as his lust for money ultimately culminates in his imprisonment. The film offers an insight on the American Dream as instead of hard work and dedication, the characters cheat and swindle others to achieve success and gain wealth. Similarly, in Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the main character Raoul Duke heads to Las Vegas in search of the American Dream. Accompanied by his “attorney” Gonzo, the trip results in many hallucinations, paranoia, and adventures after an excess usage of drugs. The American Dream is a common ideal that all Americans have equal opportunity to achieve prosperity through hard work and integrity. Thompson critiques the American Dream, as his characters journey to a city of chance and greed, constantly disrespect authority, and emphasize a dominant mentality to attain success.
Stressing the role of chance and luck in life, Thompson places the characters in Las Vegas, commonly known as “Sin City,” where gambling and drugs run rampant with its visitors. While discussing the differences between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, Duke recalls the story of his high rolling friend that originally won $15,000 through gambling, but eventually returned to the casinos becoming $30,000 in debt (41-42). This personal anecdote displays the belief that luck or chance decides the success of an individual as the friend became successful due to his good fortune in gambling.
In addition, the story displays that chance can negatively affect success as the friend eventually loses his winnings due to his own greed. Las Vegas becomes a symbol for the American Dream for Thompson, as it is associated with the nature of chance and luck. Likewise, after Duke leaves the rental car company, the employees discover that he was redlined, but the employees tell the bank, “Yes. He’s long gone; totally insured” (105). Duke was extremely fortunate as he was able to escape the rental car company before they discovered his atrocious credit and denied him the Cadillac. This situation represents the role of chance in life, as Duke was only able to continue his journey in Las Vegas due to his own luck. Las Vegas serves as a representation of chance and luck as Thompson emphasizes the role of good fortune to attain success in the world.
Conflicting with the common belief that the American Dream is characterized by integrity and respect, Thompson contradicts this belief as Duke insults police officers and veterans. During his stay in Las Vegas, Duke attends a seminar concerning drugs with his attorney. After ditching the seminar, the two men harass vacationing police officers by offering drugs and yelling other absurdities (151). The two men have no esteem for the officers as they mock and taunt them with obscene remarks. Their actions directly go against the American Dream as they lack the integrity that is commonly associated with the ideal. Thompson uses their disrespect to show the common trend in the nation, as more people are disrespectful and denigrate individuals with greater authority. Similarly, after leaving Las Vegas, Duke purchases drugs at an airport and insults two marines saying, “God’s mercy on you swine!” (204). Instead of having integrity and showing politeness, Duke displays only disdain as he takes a stance against figures of authority and the Vietnam War. Thompson condemns the American Dream as he holds a personal grudge against individuals with power and depicts the lack of morality within the nation. Thompson’s disparaging of authoritative figures, reflects his criticism of the American Dream as he reveals a lack of integrity and honor. Thompson adopts a commanding mentality as he discusses the lack of sympathy in the country, believing there was no mercy for criminal freaks within Las Vegas. While discussing sympathy, Duke examined the dominance of the shark ethic, “Eat the wounded. In a closed society where everybody’s guilty, the only crime is getting caught” (72). Duke shows a lack of morality as he believes only the strong succeed and those suffering succumb to failure. In addition, the shark ethic serves as a lesson of selfishness, teaching that the key to success arises from concern solely for oneself. The author, Thompson, conveys his view on the nation, as he paints a world lacking morality and integrity. Also, Thompson emphasizes the need for deception in the world, as he believes success arises from selfish actions, rather than helping others. Thompson uses the shark ethic to convey the American Dream as he stresses the importance of neglecting other’s problems, instead demonstrating that success emerges from egocentric decisions.
The setting of Las Vegas, taunting of authoritative figures, and use of the shark ethic serve Thompson as he redefines the American Dream as an ideal of luck, selfishness, and lacking of integrity. Through the use of Duke, Thompson conveys common practices within the nation as he emphasizes his egocentric characteristics and lack of morality. Thompson not only redefines the American Dream, but also criticizes the change in ideals of the nation as the world focuses more on selfish desires, rather than answering to the aid of others. Thompson reasons that instead of determination and honor, one must have good fortune and become egotistical to achieve success, similar to the characteristics of successful CEO Jordan Belfort.
How LSD is depicted in Terry Gilliam’s fear and loathing in Las Vegas
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a movie infamous for its depiction of various types of drug use, particularly concerning Psychedelics. The plot is driven by journalist Raoul Duke and his lawyer Dr. Gonzo on their drug fueled trip to cover stories in Las Vegas. The film depicts various drugs such as Mescaline, LSD, Ether, Marijuana, and a myriad of other substances, but this paper will focus mostly on its depiction of LSD.
Early on in the film, Duke is shown taking several tabs of LSD in the form of blotter paper, and then proceeds to ask how long he has until it kicks in. Gonzo tells him he doesn’t have long and that he would have to speed in order for them to get to Vegas before the drugs kick in. Just over a half an hour later, the effects begin to take hold. The Valet’s face starts shifting and moving as he asks him questions and Duke can no longer keep his composure as well as he could before. When he enters the building, He appears to be a sweaty mess, blaming the heat of Las Vegas. Once he tries to speak to a woman behind the reception counter for a press pass and a room, he can hardly keep his composure at her questions, he has virtually no ability to say what he wants to say in a normal fashion, and, like the Valet’s face before, everything is shifting and “breathing”, particularly patterns on things like rugs and wallpaper, and people’s faces. Soon after, he can no longer control himself as everyone in the building appears to become lizard people, and he begins to panic and not be able to keep his voice down when speaking to Gonzo, drawing a lot of attention to himself, and afterwards he is brought to his hotel room and is hiding behind furniture and overall acting very paranoid.
Now, the time it takes for the subjective effects to happen are typically 20-60 minutes after oral consumption and spreading into the bloodstream and across the blood brain barrier, and lasting 8-12 hours (Maisto, Galizio, and Connors 297-8). This makes the time frame in which the LSD activates and lasts accurate, as it is implied to have started acting on Duke within an hour and lasted until the next morning, where he says he didn’t sleep, meaning from consumption (less than an hour before sundown) to the next morning (give or take 12 hours), matching the route of administration and length of effects. The physiological effects of LSD are generally similar to that of Stimulants such as Amphetamines and Cocaine (Maisto, Galizio, and Connors 299). This would make LSD sympathomimetic, and leads to effects such as increased heart rate, high blood pressure, dilated pupils, high body temperature, and sweating. This is shown when Duke is sweating heavily before he gets to the reception at the hotel, blaming the hot Vegas weather, when in reality it’s the large amount of LSD he took making these effects happen.
As for the vivid changes in what he was seeing, such as the lights blaring, colors showing up, patterns and objects “breathing” and faces shifting, etc. The reasons for this are hard to pinpoint exactly, however, it is believed that since hallucinogens in the same class as LSD (Serotonergic Hallucinogens) all bind to the 5-HT2A Receptors that they have much to do with the effects drugs like LSD have on mood and perceptions, behaving similarly to Serotonin (Maisto, Galizio, and Connors 297). It is also a known agonist of these receptors. However, since other drugs that affect serotonin also don’t cause hallucinations (Such as MDMA, another type of Hallucinogen, or SSRIs), it is still up for debate what truly makes these hallucinations happen. However, Duke’s strange mood and visual hallucinations are relatively accurate, given the way the drugs are reported to work (Maisto, Galizio, and Connors 299).
Something Duke and Gonzo both experienced were some of the adverse effects of the drugs. Particularly panic in Duke’s case and Psychosis in Gonzo’s. This is seen when Duke can’t compose himself in any way socially, freaking out when people question him or look at him. His paranoia and panic attacks are a known issue regarding LSD, particularly in the 1960’s when there were walk in crisis centers dedicated to calming people with these effects down (Maisto, Galizio, and Connors 300). In Gonzo’s case, however, he becomes absolutely psychotic when on LSD and other Hallucinogens in the same class in the film. Every time he uses hallucinogens in the film he ends up threatening to kill people and himself. He becomes dangerous to himself and others, despite the fact that he seems relatively well adjusted when sober. This shows the idea that LSD brings out psychosis in some people. It is unknown whether LSD creates a state of psychosis in these people or if there were already latent problems in them and the LSD just magnifies it. The conclusion is hard to find here, since evidence is hard to find because psychotic users of LSD tend to use other, harder drugs as well, and because we don’t entirely understand LSDs effects, but it is generally agreed that it can bring psychosis out in disturbed or emotionally vulnerable individuals, and in Gonzo, this manifests itself in his threatening of various bystanders and acting like a lunatic (Maisto, Galizio, and Connors 302)
In conclusion, the effects of LSD in the movie are almost spot on to what studies have shown about LSD, from the physical effects to the psychological effects down to the adverse effects, almost everything that happens in the movie is accurate to what would happen according to the studies shown. The only problem here, however, is that LSD isn’t an incredibly well documented drug, with hallucinogens in general being a sort of enigmatic branch of substances. This, along with the fact that, as of now, it is generally accepted that LSD has widely ranging effects depending on the individual, means that virtually anything, particularly when it comes to visual hallucinations, can be a justified and “correct” depiction of LSD (for example we know the effects that it has on Serotonin and that this may be the reason for visual hallucination, but the exact reasons why and the extent of the hallucinations are unknown from a physiological standpoint). However, as of now, the representation of LSD is almost perfect in relation to how it is shown to act in studies.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: Thompson’s Satire of the American Dream
The American Dream is a concept that first takes on its concrete form in The Epic of America; it is described as “That dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement…That dream or hope has been present from the start.” (Adams, xvi). And though it is certainly a term taken ambiguously at best, this classification is one that rings mostly true to its central idea, which is akin to the Horatio Alger pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps ideal. It has several tangents and different interpretations, but it is largely regarded as associated with wealth or advancement of some sort. What Hunter S. Thompson seeks to do in his painfully satirical novel, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: a Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream, is not only to deconstruct and realize the absurdity of such an idea but to kick it while it is down and make a mockery of it. Thompson rejects the idea of the American Dream with such severity that he associates it with a hallucination-crazed, drug-induced weekend binge of absolute nonsensicalness.
To begin, it is necessary to get a slightly more exhaustive grasp on the American Dream as an ideal. One of its essential properties is that every American ought to have equal opportunity and that anyone can reach success or prosperity through hard work. This needs some unpacking, and this is where seriously vast interpretations begin to surface. What exactly is success or prosperity? There is, of course, no universal answer to this; some would consider a modest life with all the modest trappings that come with it as successful whereas to others it may be superfluous wealth and luxury, etc. To Thompson (if we look at Fear and Loathing as rooted in autobiography, which is a reasonably safe and agreed-upon claim), it is subjecting himself to every drug imaginable and going on misadventures throughout Las Vegas. Duke, Thompson’s alias, says the following while driving down Main Street, blasted on drugs: “Ah yes. This is what it’s all about. Total control now. Tooling along the main drag on a Saturday night in Las Vegas, two good old boys in a fireapple-red convertible…stoned, ripped, twisted…Good People.” (Thompson 29). Subjective success is as varying as snowflakes, so already the idea of the American Dream begins to see some distortion across the board. The above passage could hardly be considered anything even close to a universal idea of success; however, to Thompson, it is. Or at least it can be interpreted as such.
What exactly constitutes “hard work”? Is it working an exhaustive sixty hours a week? Important to note too is that hard work often is not included in one’s ideal picture of success. And is it a truthful claim to say that all Americans have equal opportunity? If a Black person, a White person, a Middle-Eastern person, and a Mexican person somehow all put in an equal amount of “hard work”, is it intellectually honest to say they will all yield the same benefits? Already there is a formidable margin that begins to form.
When Duke is at the Circus-Circus sitting at the bar, negotiating buying a monkey (“Goddammit…I want that ape”), he claims to be sitting in the heart of the American Dream:
He seemed surprised. “You found the American Dream?” he said. “In this town?”
I nodded. “We’re sitting on the main nerve right now,” I said. (Thompson 190, 191)
He then goes on to relate the story of the manager who, as a kid, wanted to run away to the circus. And now he had his own circus. Bruce, the person he is talking to at the bar, says, “Now the bastard has…a license to steal, too…You’re right—he’s the model.” (Thompson 191).
What is absolutely crucial to Thompson’s view of the American Dream is the fact that he places the “nerve” of it in not only in Las Vegas, which is portrayed as a nonsensical, crazy town, but in the Circus-Circus no less, the epicentre for the absurd and harebrained. This could be interpreted through a couple different lenses. One interpretation is that the idea of “success” in the American Dream is so personal, so random, so subjective that these ideas could be so medley as to be comparable to the chaos that is the Circus-Circus. However, from what is known of Hunter S. Thompson and his eccentricities and views on government/big-business America, a more likely interpretation is that the very idea of an “American Dream”, with all its ambiguities, false promises, and romanticism, is such a completely absurd and ridiculous idea that it is not only as ludicrous as a circus, but is comparable to the Circus-Circus while having been on a motley of hallucinogens.
Along with that, the agreed upon “model” for the American Dream is, as claimed by Duke, someone who wants to join a circus, receives his own, and then is able to steal. The end line here is that the Circus-Circus manager’s success is defined by his being able to steal. This is hugely satirical towards the American Dream, Americans themselves, and it even extends to capitalism. Thompson, in the above passage, depicts the American Dream to be goofy, nonsensical, and selfish. With such being the epitome of the American Dream and everything it stands for, Thompson sends a significant attack on America and its ideals, prompting perhaps a re-evaluation of such.
Another of Thompson’s comparisons is seen when Duke and Dr. Gonzo are inquiring about the American Dream, and a waitress and a man named Lou take it as a physical place. Thompson plays with words here by having the waitress recall the physical place’s location on a street called “Paradise”. This, of course, deals with the idea that the American Dream will yield some modern sort of capitalist “paradise” or some accessible paradisiacal form of success. Also important to this idea is that the waitress and Lou both cannot exactly pinpoint this supposed place’s location. What Thompson shows here is that the American Dream cannot be found because it does not exist. It is the chase towards success that people can never escape, and the American Dream is ultimately unattainable. Continuing on this tangent, Lou later asks, “…did somebody just send you on a goose chase?” (Thompson, 165). Again, this further concretes Thompson’s message that the American Dream is a nonsensical and unreachable ideal. Success is so subjective, America can oftentimes be criminally judgemental and unequal, and it is essentially just an insane idea to even consider. After an entire chapter devoted towards trying to ascertain the American Dream’s location (the supposed physical place), Duke and Dr. Gonzo eventually reach what used to be a psychiatrist’s club that is described as such: “…a huge slab of cracked, scorched concrete in a vacant lot full of tall weeds. The owner of a gas station across the road said the place had ‘burned down about three years ago.’” (Thompson 168). This is the icing on Thompson’s metaphorical cake: a psychiatrist’s purpose is to diagnose and treat mental illness. The comparisons are clear. Chasing the American Dream is akin to a sort of mental illness, a delusion; Thompson might even extend that comparison perhaps to a drug-induced weekend of hallucinations and absurdity. Not only that, but the place itself, the American Dream, had burned down. Thompson implies here that if there ever was an American Dream, in the abstract sense, that it is long gone, it is completely desecrated, and it has been in such a state for so long that a lot “full of tall weeds” had been able to flourish.
On a larger scale, the reader may look at the trip in general in a metaphorical, while not too abstract, light in which it relates to the American Dream. Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo both are under the influence of an intense amount of hallucinogens, which are, of course, known best in accordance with the counterculture of the 1960s. Keep in mind that Duke is from the very beginning of the novel claiming to be looking for “the American Dream”. The reader may look at this hallucinogen-binge as Duke’s, and on a larger scale the youth and counterculture of the 1960s, attempt to reclaim and in turn remold what society looked at as the American Dream. Until then, it was perceived to be that of an essentially capitalist system. Duke, and the 1960s counterculture, attempted to deny this and to consequently create their own, independent version of the American Dream. Going further down the line of this metaphor, the reader may also look to how the trip ultimately turned out for Duke: with an intense hangover and no sign of having found this American Dream which he had originally set out for. The same can apply in a sense to the entirety of the 1960s counterculture. While the movement gradually ended and emerged with a societal “hangover”, they were left without having “found” the “American Dream”.
That is not to say that there were no reformations, perhaps even in the idea of the American Dream itself. To many of the participants in the counterculture, they were, whether it was through drug-induced hallucinations or not, able to ascertain that there is no real grasp of a universal American Dream. Their misadventures led them to the fact that it is in fact chimerical. The reader may see this view reflected in Thompson’s writing in that the “main nerve” of the American Dream was found in a circus.
One may look at the novel from the viewpoint that “ Hunter S. Thompson is America…” (Copetas), and this is to say that Thompson’s exploits in Las Vegas represent the vulnerable, misguided, and fragmented people of the counterculture in 1960s America. Thompson, and all of the individuals sharing his worldview, shares some parallels with existential philosophy as well. In a time where everything has fallen apart and there is no direction to be found, one is faced with indecision and uncertainty; however, by the same token, one is also allowed to rebuild the fragments in any way one wants. It is a time of possibility as well as chaos. Thompson’s journey to Las Vegas is a first step in testing the waters and in finding not the American Dream, but rather his own sense and purpose in life.
Adams, James Truslow, and Schneiderman, Howard. The Epic of America. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1931. Print.
Copetas, A. Craig. “When the Going Gets Weird.” Contemporary Literary Criticism, edited by Deborah A. Schmitt, vol. 104, Gale, 1998. Literature Resource Center, login.ezp.mesacc.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=LitRC&sw=w&u=mcc_mesa&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CH1100001922&it=r&asid=45df7d14daa44bb532e62c2be72b94a1. Accessed 14 Apr. 2017. Originally published in London Review of Books, vol. 14, no. 23, 19 Dec. 1991.
Thompson, Hunter S. Fear and loathing in Las Vegas: a savage journey to the heart of the American dream. New York: Vintage , 1998. Print.
The Concept of Goodness: as captured by Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas and The Book of Daniel
In “Book VI” of the Republic, Plato states that the good in our souls is the “…authentic source of truth and reason,” that the good is the cause of all”…that is right and beautiful (Plato 517c),” that it is through reference to the idea of the good that “…just things and all the rest become useful and beneficial (Plato 505a).” The Good, therefore, according to Plato, is the cause of the forms as well as the cause of knowledge and reason (Davis). In other words, the good is the cause of the exact qualities which we have up to this point found essential to the grasp of what goodness is. The three novels share the characters’ experience with both “goodness” and the deterioration of this “goodness” in many facets. And so, perhaps the most evident theme within these three titles (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Lives of Girls and Women, and The Book of Daniel) is the corruption of this “goodness”. Each novel attempts to define “goodness” through its characters’ contention in order to exhibit human existence without this “goodness”.
Initially, in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Dr. Gonzo and Raoul Duke discuss this falling out with goodness as it pertains to the American Dream and the people’s quarrel with their trust in the American bureaucracy. As suggested by the text’s subtitle, ‘A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream’, Duke’s quest to find the American Dream drives his every action during his inebriated journey through Las Vegas. Duke notes that, “this is the American Dream in action! We’d be fools not to ride this strange torpedo all the way out to the end” (Thompson 11), when he refers to the great sum of money he was gifted by a man in Beverly Hills. The “strange torpedo” symbolizes the volatility of the traditional concept of the American Dream; “strange” is used to describe the unfamiliarity or alien-like quality of the American Dream, as if it had never existed or at least no longer exists.. However, Duke does not accept the traditional version of the American Dream—that is, hard-earned capitalist success, classic standards of family life and morals, which he believes to be a dated and undesirable goals. Instead he believes that the counterculture ultimately failed to debunk the capitalist paradigm and views his voyage as a continuation of this search (Weiss). Duke explains his search when he says,
“Let me explain it to you, let me run it down just briefly if I can. We’re looking for the American Dream, and we were told it was somewhere in this area. Well, we’re here looking for it, ‘cause they sent us out here all the way from San Francisco to look for it. That’s why they gave us this white Cadillac, they figure that we could catch up with it in that…”(Thompson 164). Dr. Gonzo and Raoul Duke attempt to find a physical manifestation of the American Dream, but it is destroyed when they discover that it is “a huge slab of cracked, scorched concrete in a vacant lot full of tall weeds [that] … burned down about three years ago” (Thompson 168).
This is a paradox because (according to Duke) faith in the American Dream and therefore, goodness, gives many believers strength but it does so by forcing them to relinquish their power to become a part of a society that accepts this frail idea of what America “should” be.
Moreover, in The Book of Daniel by E.L Doctorow, forever scarred by their parent’s arrest, trial and execution, Daniel and Susan experience the swift corruption of their innate goodness. Susan’s suicide and Daniel’s twisted personality traits are a direct reflection of the turmoil they suffered throughout their childhood. Susan and Daniel both deal with the legacy of their parents in radically different ways. Daniel visits Susan after she has been institutionalized and he notes that, “Today Susan is a starfish. Today she practices the silence of a starfish. There are few silences deeper than the silence of the starfish. There are many degrees of life lower before there is no life” (Doctorow 207). Daniel observes his sister as a starfish because she is so lifeless, so inert, so silent and immutable (Estrin). Daniel believes his sister died from a “failure to analyse”. She could not fully internalize what happened to their parents since she was very young when the events of the trial and execution occurred. It was then when she became confused (thinking the Shelter was jail) and evinced signs of inner turmoil and craving for control (incontinence).
Daniel, however, progresses with the experience of his parents legacy in a very different way. Daniel’s personality changes in conjunction with his parents execution. Probably one of Daniel’s most disturbing personality traits is his disposition towards his wife. He explains to the reader, his pride in exposing Phyllis’ insecurities and weaknesses, especially her sexual ones. Daniel recounts numerous times throughout the novel, on his sexual endeavors with Phyllis, deeming her a “sex martyr” and eventually comes to the conclusion that this is why he married her. Daniel goes so far as to tell the reader that his actions are directly a cause of his childhood when he says, “We tried to share responsibility for my actions. We considered me as our mutual problem. I was shameless (Doctorow 99), and instead he and his wife understand this burden and have agreed to share its repercussions. It is this shift in moral compass after his parent’s execution that Daniel begins this unrighteous course of abuse and destruction.
Ultimately, Thompson and Doctorow both demonstrate how a lack or loss of “goodness” explains the mal-experience of the characters within their stories. Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo’s quest for the American dream can be likened to a quest for traditional “goodness” in America during the early 1970’s, burned down (Thompson) and destroyed. Daniel’s corrupt sense of “goodness” is far from tangible throughout Doctorow’s unsettling story, as the reader experiences the shift in Daniel’s personality with Daniel and the other characters affected by his wrath. It is the culmination, however, of Thompson, Doctorow, and Plato that truly explains how without “goodness” the human experience is impossible.