The Chasing of the American Dream:
In this essay H.V will exam what the “American Dream” meant to Hunter S. Thompson and the 60s counterculture, and what effects chasing this dream had on them.

“He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.”
-Dr. Johnson

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas begins with this epigraph, which is Thompson’s first attempt to explain what the American Dream meant to him.Thompson’s American Dream did not include a white picket fence with a dog running in the front yard to grab the newspaper, the typical ideal in the 50s. Instead, his dream was a reality that the world in the 60s and 70s could not provide him, and so he went out searching.
Although it may be hard for most readers to get through the obscene drug use in the novel that starts from chapter one, it is important to understand the feelings Duke, the main character largely based off the author, had at that time period that made him turn to the drugs.Referring back to the epigraph, what Thompson wanted was a world with out the pains that his society provided at the time.

The book opens with our drugged-up duo cruising down the highway on their way to Las Vegas as the first hit of drugs starts to kick in.Although it may seem like just a funny and entertaining way to open the book, it is actually quite important to understanding the overall theme of the novel. They are on their way to search for the American Dream on their journey. This shows that they do not find their dream in the world of drugs, because then they would not be searching any further than their back trunk which is coincidentally filled up with large quantities of every type of hard drug and liquor one can find on the streets of Hollywood.It is important to understand their searching was not for drugs because they had all a drug-user could ask for.Their searching was for something they didn’t have yet, and throughout the novelthe author drops hints to what the American Dream truly was to him.

The first hint the reader gets is through the newspaper articles that Duke is reading at that time. These articles do not only help to set the scene of the novel, as they give important information about the time period,but they also give a rare insight to the feelings the main character has towards the rest of mainstream society.When feeling a bit ashamed about his drug use, he said:

“Reading the front page made me feel a lot better.Against that heinous background, my crimes were pale and meaningless.I was a relatively respectable citizen-a multiple felon, perhaps, but certainly not dangerous.And when the Great Scorer came to write against my name, that would surely make a difference.
Or would it?I turned to the sports page and saw a small item about Muhammad Ali; his case was before the Supreme Court, the final appeal.He’d been sentenced to five years in prison for refusing to kill ‘slopes.’
‘I ain’t got nothin’ against them Viet Congs,’ he said.
Five years.”(74)

This passage is important because it helps to show the frustrations that Duke felt towards the world.He was seeing good people get beaten down in an era where they were needed the most.His search for this American Dream was a search for a reality of an America that did not exist at the time. What world could he accept where a man was punished for refusing to kill another man? It was not one Duke wanted to associate with. The repetition of “five years” shows the reader Duke’s frustration with society at this time.

The only information the reader really gets about Duke and his life before the book takes place is at the end of chapter eight.He begins to describe what his life was like in the mid-60s in San Francisco and what it felt like to be part of the hippie movement at that time:

“You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. . . .
And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting — on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .
So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.” (p. 68)

There is a deep undertone of bitterness in this passage as he starts off by describing an exciting time in the youth.He felt like he was part of something great, something that would help change the world. He, and the rest of the hippie counter-culture, were hoping for change. They were not only hoping, but believing that it was almost there.But unfortunately, “the wave finally broke and rolled back.” The bitterness and disappointment felt here shows how at one time he truly believed in a cause and felt like he could create change by being a part of this movement, but his hopes were let down.

It is also important to note how the author’s writing style takes a turn here.The short, journalistic style of writing that is consistent throughout fades away in this passage.Here the writing is much more introspective, almost as if he is writing in a journal to only be read by him.This allows the reader a glimpse of Duke’s true feelings and opinions on the movement that was going on at the time, which is quite a contrast to the quick and concise story-telling and plot development that is used throughout the rest of the novel.This shows how sentimental he was to that time period and how sad he still is that change never came.

The author also changes the writing style n chapter nine in a quite dramatic way.It is written all as script dialogue, while the beginning goes on to explain that this was taken off a tape recording and was copied verbatim.This is the conversation where Duke and his attorney ask a fast food restaurant worker and her manager if they know where the American Dream can be found.The manager believes they are talking about a place called the American Dream and he says he thinks it might be the old Psychiatrist Club on Paradise Street.The information Duke and his attorney gather from the two is that it used to be a place where all drugged-out young people used to go. After leaving to go search for it, they finally found the place but it is just an abandoned cement lot overgrown with weeds which they later found out it was burned down three years ago.This chapter is the only time where Duke and his attorney straight out mention they are searching for the American Dream, and there is no better symbolism for the way Duke and the rest of the counter culture felt about their world at that time than a burnt down building and a grown over parking lot on "Paradise" Street.This image corresponds greatly with the passage about Dukes past, as the building was a busy place to be only three years ago, and now all Duke finds of this “American Dream” is an abandoned lot.This is symbolic of the complete loss of faith Duke had in his country and society.It is the author telling the reader that there is no American Dream to be found and in reality, that dream is merely a dream.

By the end of the book Duke comes full circle.He comes off his flight from Las Vegas and gets high in the airport, leaving the reader with an image of a crazy stoner running through the terminals of an airport, just as oblivious to the world as he was on his last trip.This shows the reader that even though Duke went out searching, he did not find the hopeful dream of an accepting and peaceful society that he wanted.His trip to Vegas reinforced his opinion that the dream that society wanted people to believe America had did not exist, and would not exist.This is what prompts Duke to get high again as he comes back, because he realized that he cannot accept the world around him and is too weak and let down from the last time he believed a change was coming.He felt like he had to take the drugs again to distract him from the depressing world, and keep him out of the world he rejected.

Overall, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a statement to the time period that the perfect American Dream is no longer real.It is saying that the world is changing and is asking the country if it is changing into a world in which they are proud of.



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The Soul’s Curse of Need for Religion
In this essay H.Vwill use The Curse of Lono to address Hunter S. Thompson’s opinion on the controlling factors of religion.

In the novella The Curse of Lono by Hunter S. Thompson, the author makes a big statement on religion.Throughout the novella the author mentions small pieces of information about the Hawaiians native mythology and legends, but by the end of the book, and after a drunken victory fight at sea with a three hundred pound Merlin fish, Thompson comes back to the shore screaming insults and profanity and yelling
“I AM LONO!” to a near-by crowd that has gathered at the dock.

It is important to understand that for the long and extended stay that Thompson has had on the island he has been committing multiple felonies such as setting off bombs on peoples porches, multiple instances of drug possession and usage, and other things such as kicking a bartender in his private for no reason at all while intoxicated and hoping out on a huge hotel bill after signing some false name.Thompsons extended presence on the island was worrying the native people of Hawaii for quite some time, even before he publically claimed that he was a long lost Hawaiian god whose return was prophesized and looked forward to in the ancient legends.

The native reaction to Thompsons drunken sea scene was not all a positive one, as their legends are taken very seriously. After multiple threats to leave Hawaii, Thompson actually moves in to the City of Refuge, a national park.(To understand the statement the author is making on religion, one must first immerse themselves into that of the Hawaiians.In ancient times, if one broke kapu, or taboo, such as touching the King’s possessions, one would be hunted down and killed.The only way this could be stopped is if one made it to The City of Refuge, where they would be completely safe and could ask for forgiveness. It was then turned into a national park in modern times.)The fact that he is still playing on the native peoples trust in their legends and past, shows the reader that Thompson knows how powerful a tool religion can be.Logically, there is no reason why the people should not call the police and report this man, as the act of mere staying in a national park overnight is illegal. Thompson, who really believes he is the god Lono incarnate, either knowingly or unknowingly uses the peoples deep-rooted religion as a protection for his crimes. This shows how people chose religion before logic.

While Thompson is staying at the City of Refuge there are even some locals who believe he truly is their long lost god. Thompson says they leave gifts for him outside his hut, but he dares not venture there out in the daytime for fear of being arrestedor attacked from the people at the hotel or other angrylocals who are staying out in the parking lot. The natives are not letting them get any closer to the hut because they truly believe he is Lono and they are not about to send their long lost god to jail (especially because the last time they believed their god had returned in the 1700s the Hawaiians killed the man.)This again is playing on the peoples devoutness to their god, showing how willing they are to praise and protect a drunken felon ion the name of a higher power.It shows how easily anyone can gain the trust of the public by using religion as a tool, and how blinding it can be.

Overall, in the novella The Curse of Lono, Hunter S. Thompson is commenting on how easy it to control people using religion.






Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream

Identity and America
In the following essay, A.P. will examine how Hunter S. Thompson reflects upon societal turmoil in America through criticism of consumerism and the influence of governmental authority, as well as the role it plays in development or dismemberment of personal identity.
In this revolutionary novel, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream, Hunter S. Thompson extensively illustrates a time period of utter social turbulence, and defines an entire generation of post-60’s counterculture. Under constant psychedelic influence, Thompson propagates the experiences of Raoul Duke (Thompson’s alter ego), and his attorney, Dr. Gonzo (largely based on Thompson’s actual attorney, Oscar Zeta Acosta) in Las Vegas while reporting on the Mint 400 motorcycle race.

Why is this novel, a frenzied, unorganized combination of two articles once published in the rolling stone largely focused on the mass consumption of controlled substances even remotely noteworthy, never the less revolutionary? The genius of his writing lies precisely in the perfect organization of his disorganization. Thompson’s writing style combines traditional journalism of factual reporting with somewhat fictionalized personal accounts through complete submergence in whatever it is he was writing about. Thus, the “New Journalism” effort in the 60’s was hurled into a completely new innovative direction, known as “Gonzo Journalism.” As exhibited in this novel, Thompson writes in a way that opens somewhat of a portal into his thought process. His descriptions are unfiltered, sporadic, unpredictable and crude. This creates a continuous fast pace and raw tone throughout most of the text, establishing a connection between Raoul Duke and the reader. Therefore, this style allows a greater understanding of the complexity of the character as well as his interpretation of American society - the foundation of the entire story.
Throughout the story, Duke proclaims that he is in search of the “American Dream” while in the heart of the nation’s mainstream and consumerism – Las Vegas. In the following excerpt, Duke is heavily under the influence of LSD and begins to hallucinate, seeing everyone as lizards, which is a reoccurring hallucination.

“Terrible things were happening all around us. Right next to me a huge reptile was gnawing on a woman’s neck, the carpet was a blood-soaked sponge -impossible to walk on it, no footing at all. ‘Order some golf shoes,’ I whispered. ‘Otherwise, we’ll never get out of this place alive. You notice these lizards don’t have any trouble moving around in this muck—that’s because they have claws on their feet.”(15)
In this scene, the LSD is almost serving a purpose of clarification. It makes the distinction between him and society even more evident. The lizards represent mainstream members of the consumerist American society and have a negative impact on Duke, making him uneasy and confused. The “lizards” are able to easily move around the “muck” that Duke claims to be impossible maneuver through without aid from specific shoes. These reptiles are well equipped for their survival in their environment by adapting claws, just as society is well equipped for daily life by adapting to the consumerism that is shaping the country. The depiction of society as grotesque mindless creatures reflects off of the quote taken from Dr. Johnson stated in the beginning of the novel, “He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.” By dehumanizing themselves, the lizards do not have to bother with free thought. Americans, completely immersed in a capitalistic society fueled by greed, wealth, and desire, are unable to engage in anything other than the materialistic mainstream. Why boggle one’s mind with troublesome thoughts about worldly issues when entertainment and satisfaction can be found in the nearest shopping center? Here is where Duke differs from society, therefore cannot be a “functioning” member. His thinking is far beyond the confines of a sale price, which makes him unable to maneuver in the muck of a consumerist nation.

Once again, the duo is still in search for the “American Dream.” While delirious in a small, grungy diner, Duke and Gonzo have a conversation with the waitress and the cook (described to the reader by dialogue through tapes) and discover that “The American Dream” is actually the name of a place – an old psychiatrist’s club, located on a Paradise Avenue.

“There is a certain consistency in the garbled sounds however, indicating that almost two hours later Dr. Duke and his attorney finally located what was left of the “Old Psychiatrist’s Club”—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.’”(76)
This passage is arguably the one of the most important statements within this novel. The American Dream no longer exists. It is merely an empty, corrupted space in what Americans are told is paradise. There is no depth, only an infestation of weeds - governmental lies and influence, as well as distortion of political movements. This story was published in the Rolling Stone in 1971, therefore three years prior would have been 1968, a very crucial point in American history. It was right in the midst of the Vietnam War, exactly when the Tet Offensive took place. This event led many American’s to question their country’s involvement in Vietnam, and marked significant growth in anti-governmental sentiment.1968 was also the year that Nixon had been elected. Thompson made several small comments about him prior to this scene, allowing his absolute hatred for Nixon to bubble to the surface. Martin Luther King Jr. was fatefully assassinated during this year as well, while his once peaceful organization, SNCC, became increasingly more militant, and lost sight of Dr. King’s initial believe in civil disobedience. The dream he had described in his speech during the March on Washington was now in shambles, just as the faith in America was nearly obliterated by the war and to Thompson, Nixon’s election. There is no more progression, not even a shard of the shattered American Dream that once fueled American society, only disillusionment, hopelessness, and raging frustration.

The energy that once was behind the 60’s libertarian counterculture movements had essentially dissipated.

“But what is sane? Especially here in “our own country”—in this doomstruck era of Nixon. We are all wired into a survival trip now. No more of the speed that fueled the Sixties. Uppers are going out of style. This was the fatal flaw in Tim Leary’s trip. He crashed around America selling “consciousness expansion” without ever giving a thought to the grim meat-hook realities that were lying in wait for all the people who took him too seriously.” (80)
“Uppers” refer to drugs that provide somewhat of an improvement in mental and physical function – an awakening. The statement that these are “going out of style” is a statement on how the hope for the betterment of American society no longer exists, and now people are taking other drugs to suppress mental and physical function, simply to become incoherent. The gruesome realties of American culture became increasingly overwhelming, slowly draining the vigor of political movements, and breaking the people behind them.
Consumerism and governmental influence are the predominant factors controlling American society, polluting an entire generation thus debilitating any form of personal identity. Throughout the story, Duke and Gonzo take on various personas – whatever is best fit for the situation. With each journalistic assignment (The Mint 400 Race and the Police Convention on Narcotics) they also switch cars, exhibiting inconsistency of identity. Since consumerism and government are consistently prevalent, the characters begin to mimic them. The absolute dependence on the various drugs they use represents the dependence on materialism that a consumerist society promotes. “You can turn your back on a person, but never turn your back on a drug.” (28) People mean nothing when it comes to addiction. Consumerism, as stated before, is dehumanizing American citizens. The nation is slowly becoming that of mindless drones, and is increasingly becoming more and more of an addict to materialism and greed.

During their stay at one of the hotels, a maid happens to walk in the room as Duke was sleeping, and as Gonzo was vomiting into his shoe, while in a terribly delirious and hostile state of mind. He began to attempt murder, until Duke woke up and stopped him.
“He was trembling, drooling vomit off his chin, and I could see at a glance that he understood the gravity of this situation. Our behavior, this time, had gone far past the boundaries of private kinkiness. Here we were, both naked, staring down at a terrified old woman—a hotel employee—stretched out on the floor of our suite in a paroxysm of fear and hysteria. She would have to be dealt with.” (82)

In realizing that they had gone much too far, they take on the identity of two undercover agents that were investigating a drug ring at the hotel, and used that as an excuse for their extreme actions. Here, they mimic the government, and how easily they can manipulate the American people. The maid, Alice, is caught in the middle of something completely unknown to her, and is reassured of something completely different through carefully placed lies and quick deception. With the Vietnam War taking place, many Americans, along with Thompson began to realize the hold that the government had (and still has) on America, and wondered if what was being fed to them was complete fabrication and distortion of an even graver issue.

In conclusion, this novel evidently a statement on what America is becoming, and how it affects different masses of people. Through the search of identity, Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo exemplify different issues of that time period. They explore the disillusionment of the 1960’s counterculture and the governmental chokehold on an empty nation, drained from capitalistic consumerism.

A.P. 2012



The Rum Diary
Failure and Frustration with America, and with Himself
In the following essay, A.P. will analyze Hunter S. Thompson’s long lost novel of his youth, in which he expresses the need to escape the confines of American society as well as to establish meaning in his life, and the frustration of being unable to do so.
Hunter S. Thompson’s very first novel, The Rum Diary, is a story of a wandering journalist, Paul Kemp that attempts to escape American culture by leaving New York to join a struggling Newspaper in late 1950’s Puerto Rico. The character is definitely based off of Thompson when he was much younger, far before his invention of Gonzo Journalism, and still struggling to make his name known in the journalistic world.

Throughout the novel, Kemp often regards Americans and American society as bothersome, and often responds to them with mild contempt.
“All around us were people I had spent ten years avoiding -- shapeless women in wool bathing suits, dull-eyed men with hairless legs and self-conscious laughs, all Americans, all fearsomely alike. These people should be kept at home, I thought; lock them in the basement of some goddamn Elks Club and keep them pacified with erotic movies; if they want a vacation, show them a foreign art film; and if they still aren't satisfied, send them into the wilderness and run them with vicious dogs.” (84)
This excerpt exemplifies one of Kemps reasons for leaving – to avoid blending in with the rest of society, and to avoid being categorized. He wanted to expand himself beyond the ignorance and self-centeredness that riddled American society. That lifestyle was simply empty and meaningless.

“Tell them that this man Kemp is fleeing St. Louis because he suspects the sack is full of something ugly and he doesn't want to be put in with it. He senses this from afar. This man Kemp is not a model youth. He grew up with two toilets and a football, but somewhere along the line he got warped. Now all he wants is Out, Flee. He doesn't give a good s*** for St Louis or his friends or his family or anything else. . .he just wants to find someplace where he can breathe. ..” (47)

American culture had a chokehold on Kemp’s creative and intellectual growth. The traditional childhood and lifestyle of a typical American man lacked depth, meaning, and individuality. Historically, the 1950’s was a time when conformity was greatly encouraged by society. Kemp realized this, thus initiating his desire to escape, to break free from the confines of conformity.
However, despite the tremendous effort to leave America and escape its control, Kemp finds himself disliking the island more and more, as he realizes that American influence has invaded there as well. He is disgusted by the character of Zimburger, who is trying to ravage a beautiful Puerto Rican beach with a two large hotels and entertainment center -another tourist attraction. Yet, Kemp finds himself writing advertisements for him, simply for money. He is still as slave to capitalism, merely by trying to survive.

Kemp continuously struggles to keep his dream alive, to stay true to himself. Yet, he still falls victim to an inescapable fate.

“Mainly, I said, I'm tired of being a punk – a human suckfish. I chuckled. You know about suckfish? She shook her head. They have little suction cups on their bellies, I said. And they attach themselves to sharks -- when the shark gets a big meal, the suckfish eats the leftovers.”(91)

This frustration is a direct reference to capitalism. Kemp is tired of feeding off of a bigger person’s success, and he wishes to make it on his own. However, as stated before, it is inevitable, and he realizes this. He realizes that his success will always be branching off of others, and this upsets him immensely.

“The surf was high and I felt a combination of fear and eagerness as I took off my clothes and walked toward it. In the backlash of a huge wave I plunged in and let it suck me out to sea. Moments later I was hurtling back toward the beach on top of a long white breaker that carried me along like a torpedo. Then it spun me around like a dead fish and slammed me on the sand so hard that my back was raw for days afterward.” (94)

The sea is exceptionally symbolic of the opportunity for expansion Kemp sees for himself. Yet, just as symbolic is the wave. The wave represents how his efforts are meaningless and how no matter how great of an effort he makes to escape is, he will always be drawn back, and that very drawback is just as difficult as the struggle prior. This serves as foreshadowing as well. Kemp eventually becomes so weary and drained by alcohol that he eventually returns to New York, to be with a woman that he had met in Puerto Rico. He left with absolutely nothing, and returned empty once again, with nothing.

In essence, this novel expresses young Thompson’s struggle to cope with the way America functions. Capitalism and corruption is a disease that has already infected him, and he is frustrated with that very fact.

A.P. 2012