Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas | Study Guide

Hunter S. Thompson

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Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas | Part 2, Chapter 12 : Return to the Circus-Circus ... Looking for the Ape ... to Hell with the American Dream | Summary

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Summary

Duke considers saying his hotel room, with its layers of destruction and neglected filth, is an exhibit to show the effects of the drug lifestyle to the convention.

Duke takes a phone call from his friend Bruce Innes who has found the man who wants to sell Duke an ape he had asked about buying. Duke goes to Circus-Circus to meet Bruce and sees an old man being loaded into an ambulance. The valet tells him the back of the man's head has been cut up.

When Duke meets Bruce at the bar, Bruce tells him the ape has been taken away because he attacked an old man. Duke offers to pay the ape's bail, but Bruce tells him to stay away from the jail. Duke says he's leaving town as soon as possible. Duke declares Circus-Circus is the main nerve of the American dream. He heard a story about the owner wanting to join the circus as a kid, and now he owns his own circus "and a license to steal too." Duke's attempts to secure an interview with the owner have been harshly rebuffed. The owner hates the press.

Months later, Bruce goes to Aspen, Colorado with his band. A former astronaut criticizes Bruce's lyrics as unpatriotic and tells Bruce he has no business criticizing America because Bruce is Canadian. Bouncers hustle the astronaut to the door while he and Duke trade insults. The astronaut tells Duke, "You don't represent this country!" The next night, the astronaut signs an autograph for a young boy in a restaurant. The boy tears up the autograph and says, "Not everybody loves you, man." The astronaut's group finishes their meal in silence and leaves without tipping.

Analysis

In a sense, Duke's idea to turn his hotel suite, with the broken mirrors, burned out bed, puddles of condiments and general squalor would confirm the worst suspicions and rumors the law enforcement officers have perpetrated at the drug conference. As is the case with his crimes, Duke is convinced if anyone saw the condition of this room, they would be unable to believe anyone, even a junkie, would create such filth and live in it.

Duke's interest in purchasing an ape for a pet is not foreshadowed in any preceding chapters, so the desire for the pet ape appears to come from nowhere in true gonzo form. Also in gonzo form is Duke's intention to take it on the flight home as his son and his willingness to buy the ape even after he knows it has severely injured an old man. In the ape's defense, the old man taunted it at the bar, but the ape, like so many other misfits in Las Vegas, will see no justice.

Duke takes the opportunity at the bar to reiterate his belief, first stated in Part 1, Chapter 6, that Circus-Circus is the "main nerve" of the American dream. In Part 1, Chapter 6, this belief is rooted in the gaudy pageantry of the casino, but in this chapter Duke's conclusion comes from a more traditional interpretation of the "rags to riches" style story of American entrepreneurialism and success.

Bruce Innes is a musician with a Canadian folk band called The Original Caste. They write and perform satirical and political songs. In this chapter, Bruce appears as a musician who does his job, accepting a gig at Circus-Circus because the band has to eat. He isn't militant about political beliefs; he just writes and performs songs that comment on social and political issues. His calm stands in sharp contrast with the astronaut, whose position does seem to be militantly patriotic. For the astronaut, exercise of free speech to question the government or American culture is unacceptable. Two years after America landed on the moon, this astronaut feels entitled to treatment as a hero, but he takes that entitlement too far and alienates people instead. His lack of humility and tolerance becomes common enough knowledge to prompt a kid to insult him. When the astronaut's party leaves the restaurant quickly without leaving a tip, their action indicates a failure to recognize the flaw in their sense of entitlement. They only recognize the offense another customer has caused and seem to blame their server for an event not within his or her control.

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