Literature is considered a mirror of the society. The pool of content in literary writing stems from the environment in which the writer is placed. A writer will use this environment to advance his/her views of the society and at the same time drive into the audience/readers important information that he/she wishes to pass. Hunter S. Thompson has used his creativity in the novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas written in the 1960s to reflect on American society with Las Vegas as the point of reference.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas describes the American society as hypocritical. The Duke and Gonzo attend a conference on narcotics and dangerous drugs. The theme of the conference is slated as an appeal for knowledge sharing on drugs between those with knowledge on drugs and those that do not. Their attendance is hypocritical in that they have already decided that they were not going to offer their services at the conference. Thompson on page 143 notes that Duke and Gonzo had made it clear that they would be crazy to try any teaching at the conference and they would rather sit and enjoy their drugs. Furthermore, the police who are tasked with law enforcement are also hypocritical, instead of enforcing laws on drugs and alcoholism they engage with criminals in committing crimes. This is illustrated by the police officer from Georgia.
Secondly, the American society is as a blacked out society. Drugs, alcoholism and black market enterprises characterize a blacked out society. A black market society is a consumer based society characterized by both legal and illegal business the duke and the attorney are not drug dealers but heavy consumers. As soon as they get to Mint hotel the Attorney orders four shrimp cocktails, four club sandwiches, quart rum and fresh grape fruits. He says they will need to have all they can get. There stay in Las Vegas is characterized by heavy drug abuse and alcoholism. The sorry state of this vices forces the administration to organizes conference to tackle issues of drugs and alcohol dubbed
In addition, Fear and Loathing Las Vegas reveals racist nature of the American military and the decay of moral values. This is portrayed in a copy of the Las Vegas Sun newspaper. “…she was just a slope anyway.” This is in reference to killing of Asiatic origin person. His killing is considered right for simple reason that he from the race of the enemy camp. A ‘slope’ referred to Asiatic community. The massive killings during the Vietnam War were ironically regarded as success by the American government. As the Duke continues to read the newspaper, a small article talks about how Mohammed Ali has a final appeal of a case in court which he had been sentenced to five years in prison for refusing to kill “slopes.” This illustrates the moral decay of the society. A criminal was likely to get a shorter jail term than a person who had refused to join the military and aid in killings. What is right is considered a serious offence.
Consumerism and capitalist culture has been embraced in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. This is well brought out by the two protagonists in the novel. The lifestyle of the Duke and his attorney on the journey to Las Vegas is characterized by heavy spending on drugs, accommodation, transportation and gambling. Duke says their car trunk looked like a police narcotics lab (Thompson 4). This shows they had bought so many expensive drugs which the writer goes ahead to acknowledge that they did not actually need but for the fun of it.
Moreover, the two protagonists are searching for American dream using a fascinating car “…we are looking for the American dream…that is why they gave us this white Cadillac” (Thompson 164). This demonstrates the capitalist nature. The car has to be a Cadillac which was a status car of the might in the society.
Lastly, the novel’s central theme revolves around the American dream. The American dream is an idea stating that success comes through hard work. However, the dream is a dying one which has not materialized because of the society’s greed, selfishness and corruption as depicted in Fear and Loathing in Vegas by Thomson. Drug business, prostitution and gambling have replaced legal businesses in Las Vegas. Law forces have been tangled up in this game as they watch this acts being committed for a few pennies from the dealers. The picture of a crowd of Las Vegas residence in a casino at early hours of the morning gives more dimensions to the American dream. Emerging from a casino having won seems to epitomize what the society feels about the American dream.
Patriotism among American citizens in the pursuit of this dream cannot be disputed despite being portrayed negatively. The Duke says “…I will have a natural American car or nothing at all” (Thompson 104). This illustrates pride in American products as opposed to products from other countries.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Thompson Hunter S. arguments have negatively portrayed the American society in the 1960s and 1970s. Drugs and alcohol abuse, racism, hypocrisy, failed institutions and the dying American dream continue to daunt the image of the Las Vegas society. However all is not lost as the issues addressed have continued to be a point of reference not only to the Americas past but the future ambitions. Thompson plays his role as an author in bringing into public what is ethically wrong or right.
Thompson, Hunter S. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream. London: Flamingo, 1972
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