Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas | Study Guide

Hunter S. Thompson

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Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas | Part 1, Chapter 9 : No Sympathy for the Devil ... Newsmen Tortured? ... Flight into Madness | Summary



Duke takes Dr. Gonzo to the airport to catch a Tuesday morning flight back to Los Angeles. They have run up a room service bill "between $29 and $36 per hour for forty-eight consecutive hours." This bill includes a set of luggage and 600 bars of Neutrogena soap. At the airport, Duke spends the last of his cash on tacky plastic souvenirs.

When he returns to the car Duke realizes he is alone in Las Vegas with "an incredibly expensive car, completely twisted on drugs, no attorney, no cash, no story for the magazine," not to mention the room service bill. Duke notices Dr. Gonzo's briefcase in the car. It contains a .357 Magnum for Duke to bring back to Los Angeles. Duke wonders how he will explain the "loaded, unregistered, concealed, and maybe hot" gun to any police he may encounter, but he isn't worried enough to part with the gun.

Duke prepares to skip town by loading "the grapefruit and the other luggage" into the car during the night. He waits for the valet to bring the car around the next morning and peruses the newspaper. He reads stories about a missing 19-year-old woman found stuffed in a refrigerator and torture of Vietnamese prisoners in the war. Duke thinks his own crimes pale in comparison to the morning news.


During his life Hunter S. Thompson gave hundreds of interviews, but he was mostly vague and cagey about which events in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas really happened and which ones didn't. Skipping out on the hotel bill at the Mint was one of the few events he categorically confirmed as true, both in his interviews and in the preface for the novel that went unpublished until The Great Shark Hunt in 1979. Oscar Acosta did leave Thompson in Las Vegas after the Mint 400, returning to Los Angeles to appear in court with one of his clients. Thompson remained in Las Vegas for a few more days, so the timeline is a little different, but he did rack up an obscenely high bill he couldn't pay. He felt the fear as he escaped the premises under false pretenses with a handgun and a large stash of marijuana in his suitcase.

Many of the items Duke and Dr. Gonzo have accumulated make no rational sense. They are the product of drug logic. Thompson was a longtime fan of grapefruit in real life, but the amount of grapefruit he loads into the car is excessive. Six hundred bars of soap for men who leave their hotel suites soiled and dingy makes little sense, but it speaks to the hotels' and casinos' willingness to give things away to keep guests happy and gambling. Neutrogena was just making its way into the American market in the early 1970s, but the expense is small compared to what the casino stands to make from someone presenting himself as a high roller.

Compared to the crimes reported in the morning news, Duke's actions do seem like minor infractions. Leaving a hotel without paying is a crime. It is theft and fraud, but theft and fraud are an order of magnitude away from murder and torture. Duke's crime is not victimless, but his victim is an entity generating revenues that dwarf whatever the sum of his hotel bill happens to be. This is the same entity that does not hesitate to threaten violence and take away all the worldly possessions of customers who make the mistake of betting too much in a game of chance. Duke isn't a Robin Hood-type hero, sticking it to the greedy and exploitative casino. He is just a guy who cannot pay his bill and tries to find a way past the excessive punishment he knows will follow if he stays. Still, the end result is an act of tiny rebellion against the casino behemoth and Las Vegas culture.

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