Fear and Loathing: Exploring the Escapist American Dream
Hunter S. Thompson is known for his erratic style and controversial writing on many aspects of the American society. In his novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Thompson explores escapism- both external and internal- which was growing in popularity headed into the drug movement of the 1970’s. The youth were restless and bored, and the generation gap was causing a lot of young Americans to feel disconnected with their country’s view of a successful and meaningful existence. The youth wanted something different- they wanted something more- more fun, more adventurous, more exciting than the average life of school, work, and providing for a family in a big city. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas presents a solution to this dream of a new identity, following the life of a rather lunatic journalist named Duke. Thompson’s story explores the themes of internal and external escapism, through Duke’s use of copious amounts of drugs on his trip to cover a rally car race in Las Vegas with his said “attorney”, in addition to Thompson’s personal and intriguing writing style proclaimed as “Gonzo Journalism”, effectively making the work rebellious and fresh- an appealing novel to the youth counter-culture of the time- testing the limits and breaking the rules of the contemporary “American Dream”.
The first thing the reader really gets a grasp on is that Duke and his attorney are heavy drug users, with the first line of the novel reading, “We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold” (Thompson 3). The feeling that the main characters in the story are somewhat deranged and not of the typical American society is quickly manifested with lines like “...the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car” (Thompson 3) and “Very soon, I knew, we would both be completely twisted. But there was no going back, and no time to rest”...
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