Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas: The Death Of The American Dream

2359 words - 9 pages

The American Dream: the trademark of US society. Its meaning is deeply rooted in the Declaration of Independence which proclaims that “all men are created equal” and that they are all entitled to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” (The Declaration of Independence). The luring Dream attracted thousands of immigrants to the United States and many people, including authors, have been inspired by it, one of them being Hunter S. Thompson. His book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream follows protagonist Raoul Duke in search of the American Dream. While he comes in bars, casinos and hotels, it seems that he never finds what he is looking for: the American Dream has failed him. The situations that Raoul Duke experience are a metaphor for the decaying American Dream and the corruption in American society due to growing social discontent.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a satiric book, one that explores the myth of the American Dream within the tumultuous 1960s. On the first pages we learn that Raoul Duke is a journalist, travelling from California to Las Vegas to cover the Mint 400. Thus, Duke is travelling eastward and this can be seen as the first indicator that Thompson is pulling the American Dream’s leg: Daniel Joseph Fyfe states that in the “mythos of the American Dream the heroic trek westward has always been a defining aspect of American character” (emphasis added) (Fyfe 245). However, Thompson chooses to let Duke travel east: back into the country, into American society; exactly back to the place where the ‘Manifest Destiny’ once started, almost inverting the American Dream.
When the story continues, we learn that Duke is not only travelling to Las Vegas to cover a motorcycle race, but he is also there to “find the American Dream” (Thompson 6). It was Horatio Alger Jr., the writer that Thompson refers to several times in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, who popularized the meaning of the Dream. It is thus Alger’s definition that we still remember today: “from rags to riches” (Williams 82 - 83). Critics of the American Dream however, have argued that the Dream has become a vulgar pursuit of wealth (Kasser and Ryan 410). This is clearly described in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, in which its main character Jay Gatsby thinks he can make himself happy by earning money and thus hyping up his status (Jensen). In a similar way Raoul Duke and his attorney Dr. Gonzo have a taste of this excessive lifestyle in Fear and Loathing, where money does not seem to play an issue. This wealthy way of life is depicted in the following scene: “[…] a call comes through from some total stranger from New York, telling me to go to Las Vegas and expenses be damned – and then he sends me over to some 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” (11). It seems evident that Duke draws a parallel...

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