Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas | Study Guide

Hunter S. Thompson

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Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas | Part 2, Chapter 14 : Farewell to Vegas ...'God's Mercy on You Swine!' | Summary

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Summary

Duke dumps his identification badge from the conference and declares the experience a waste of time. The conference is just an excuse for the cops to take a vacation in Las Vegas. They're still worried about LSD when the "big market, these days, is in Downers." Duke points out, "it is worth noting, historically, that Downers came in with Nixon."

Duke boards his plane without incident. The flight attendant is polite to him, even sharing her cigarettes with him, but she gets nervous when she sees him cutting up a grapefruit with a hunting knife. He tries to play if off with a smile, but wonders if she will have him caged when they land.

Duke dozes off but wakes upon landing, confused why he is in Denver. He goes to the airport drugstore, where he buys a box of amyl nitrate capsules, showing the clerk his identification card as a "Doctor of Divinity, a certified Minister of the Church of the New Truth." She apologizes for asking for identification, saying "We get some real freaks in this place. All kinds of dangerous addicts." Duke wanders to the airport bar and shouts "God's mercy on you swine!" as he passes two Marines. He takes another hit of amyl and laughs, "just sick enough to be totally confident."

Analysis

Duke points out the market in Downers has expanded since Richard Nixon has become president. This shift in drug demand reflects a shift in the interests and priorities of American society, and provides another glimpse at the death of the American dream. In the 1960s, people take psychedelic drugs such as LSD because they want to expand consciousness and see reality in new and exciting ways. They want to engage with the world and with themselves on a more insightful level. By contrast, Downers—a category of drugs Duke uses to encompass everything from marijuana to tranquilizer pills—are designed to dull the impact of reality, allowing the user to check out and disengage. Duke's connection between Downers and Richard Nixon implies Nixon is creating a reality people don't want to engage with.

Duke engages in some alarming behavior on the airplane. Security is clearly far more lax in 1971 than it will be in the early 21st century, but the sight of a man with a large knife on a plane is alarming in any decade. Duke views the knife as a means to an end, never considering how it might be perceived by others, although he spends a great deal of energy fretting about whether he will be able to board with the .357 Magnum in his bag.

As the final line of the book confirms, Duke gets away with so many crimes and misdemeanors by virtue of his supreme confidence. From the time he first arrives in Las Vegas through the episode with Lucy, Duke lives in a state of constant fear, anxiety, and paranoia. A shift in his behavior and his perception seems to take place after he and Dr. Gonzo discover the American dream has burned to the ground in Part 2, Chapter 9. Perhaps because he knows the American dream is truly dead, Duke feels a greater sense of freedom. Perhaps he has greater confidence because he has gotten away with so much for so long. When his plane lands in a city he doesn't expect, he doesn't panic or fret, he continues his brazen cycle of behavior. He buys more drugs, takes them, and moves along through the world to his next adventure.

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