Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas | Study Guide

Hunter S. Thompson

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Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas | Part 1, Chapter 3 : Strange Medicine on the Desert ... A Crisis of Confidence | Summary



Duke considers giving the convertible to the hitchhiker after the kid tells him he has never ridden in a convertible before. Duke thinks he can fly to Miami, rent another car, drive to the Keys, rent a boat, and "keep moving." He decides he would rather keep the car and drag race against the locals on the Las Vegas Strip.

Dr. Gonzo veers off the road, asking for his medicine. Duke gives him two amyl nitrate capsules to inhale, and they tell the kid Dr. Gonzo has a heart condition. They turn up the radio and the tape player—playing different songs—to full volume. Dr. Gonzo tells the kid they are going to Las Vegas to find "a scag baron named Savage Henry ... and rip his lungs out." Duke adds they plan to eat the lungs. The kid jumps out of the car, scrambling over the trunk. He yells his thanks for the ride as he runs down the highway back toward Baker. Dr. Gonzo says, "Good riddance. We had a real freak on our hands."

They decide to take some blotter acid (LSD) after the kid departs. The acid takes effect as they arrive at the Mint hotel in downtown Las Vegas, which makes check-in awkward. The room isn't ready, so they wait in the bar. Duke sees the other bar patrons as giant reptiles feasting on human flesh. "And somebody's giving booze to these goddamn things!" he says. Dr. Gonzo says he has talked to Lacerda, their photographer for the race story, and has intimidated him with the mention of Savage Henry. Duke goes to see the lizards at the press table to get his press credentials for the race.


Duke entertains the fantasy of "keep moving" as a reflection of the American dream. The American dream encompasses many ideas, one of which is mobility, expressed through the popularity of cars and highway travel in modern culture. In history this mobility is expressed in the westward expansion and settlement that has made this highway through the desert and the city of Las Vegas possible in the first place. The American economy is based on activity and movement as well. "Keep moving" could be a motto for the American dream.

Duke's desire to keep moving also indicates his status as an outsider from American society. He doesn't fit in anywhere in the current culture, so it makes sense for him to simply stay on the move. Right now that motion is taking him through the desert. Later that motion will carry him to locations all over the greater Las Vegas area. For the duration of the novel, Duke seldom stops moving.

Dr. Gonzo declares the hitchhiker kid a freak in the same way he declares the salesman a psychotic in Part 1, Chapter 2. To most members of mainstream society, Dr. Gonzo is the one who appears to be a freak, but for Dr. Gonzo people who are skittish about the unusual, who fear change, are the freaky ones. Duke's vision of the bar patrons and reporters in the Mint reflects this same idea. They are the ones with the problem. They are the ones who are monstrous, strange, and threatening.

The mentions of Savage Henry make Duke and Dr. Gonzo consistently threatening to others. It is unclear in the narrative whether Savage Henry is a real person or something Dr. Gonzo and Duke have constructed for the very purpose of intimidating others by their association with him. The reader doesn't see Lacerda's response to the name-drop firsthand, so his feelings of intimidation could be based only in Dr. Gonzo's perception, which is famously flawed. The hitchhiker flees the car when Savage Henry gets mentioned, but it's unclear whether he is responding to the name or to the two real men in front of him talking about killing a third man and eating his lungs.

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