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The novel “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” by Hunter Thompson is a brilliant example of the so-called gonzo journalism or probably it would be better to say autobiographic prose. There is no need to summarize its plot, it is the story of two people going to Las Vegas and experimenting with various drugs. The abundance of surrealistic images and flashbacks sometimes makes it very difficult to trace the development of the story. However, we should focus our attention not on the plot but on the hidden symbols of this book, although sometimes they just lie on the surface.
As it is widely known, this novel is also known as “The Savage Journey into the Heart of American Dream”. The concept of journey is many-faceted, and it can be interpreted from various standpoints. In its direct meaning the name of this novel can be viewed as the trip to Las Vegas. However, this city symbolizes various concepts. Additionally their characters look at this city in their own unique way. “The Heart of American Dream” also can have positive and negative connotations.
Our task is to show how this journey is viewed by some of the minor characters, how he or she perceives the notion of “American Dream”, and how it reflects his world perception. Regarding minor characters, we can mention the Hitchhiker, a young man, who is picked up by the two travelers. One should bear in mind that Hunter Thompson always contrasts other people with Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo. The narrator usually refers to him as “Okie kid” It should be taken into account that this expression has some derogatory connotations, meaning provincial, a rustic and unsophisticated person. This young man is reticent to the highest degree, and we do not know practically anything about his background.
However, some of his phrased can give us some tips as to the personality of hitchhiker. First, he says, “Hot damn! I never rode in a convertible before”(Thompson, p. 7) This phrase only proves that Las Vegas or the “Heart of American” is terra incognita to him. This world of luxury is unknown to him.
The narrator tells him “I want you to know that we’re on our way to Las Vegas to find the American Dream” The hitchhiker fails to see the irony of his words he perceives them literally. At this point, he does not know all the peculiarities of life in the “sin city”.
Moreover, when he is being offered to take drugs (namely, ether, a fashionable sunstone in early seventies), he is taken aback. The only thing that the hitchhiker can utter is the bewildered “What?” For him, Las Vegas is the mysterious land, that attracts him, but this young man knows nothing of it, and now he faces Duke and Dr Gonzo, people who have often travelled to this “heart of American dream”. Hitchhiker is afraid of them, and regrets having set in their car. Finally, he runs away, having no intention to deal with the two travelers. Such character as the hitchhiker is to some extent symbolic, He represents an average young who is just to just about to taste amenities of the life in a big city , but this new life frightens him.
Thus, we can arrive at the conclusion that the author contrasts Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo with other characters, and this comparative only develops this concepts of “American Dream”.
Hunter S. Thompson, Ralph Steadman. “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream” Vintage Books, 1989.