Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas | Study Guide

Hunter S. Thompson

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Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas | Part 2, Chapter 5 : A Terrible Experience with Extremely Dangerous Drugs | Summary

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Summary

Duke remains determined to leave Las Vegas, but Dr. Gonzo insists he cannot be left alone in "this snake pit." Dr. Gonzo agrees to call Lucy and solve their problem. He feeds Lucy an elaborate story about Duke's passing a bad check at the Flamingo and pretends to be attacked by casino heavies breaking down the door to punish him for association with Duke. He believes this ruse will be sufficient to scare Lucy away from the Flamingo.

The Lucy problem now solved, Dr. Gonzo gives Duke a small brown bottle in his shaving bag. He claims the substance in the bottle is adrenochrome, which is extracted from the adrenaline glands of a living human. Once extraction is complete the donor dies. Dr. Gonzo says he got it from a guy he defended against a child molestation charge. He was afraid to turn this client down, and says "Even a goddamn werewolf is entitled to counsel."

The adrenochrome affects Duke immediately and intensifies his anxiety as he watches Richard Nixon on the news. Dr. Gonzo urges him to relax. After midnight Duke feels able to move and speak. He and Dr. Gonzo go out to dinner at a restaurant where "four boozed-up cowboy types kick a faggot half to death between the pinball machines." Dr. Gonzo observes a person with good contacts could easily get plenty of adrenochrome in a town like this. They return to the Flamingo and watch a late movie on TV.

Analysis

While it may be difficult for readers to see Dr. Gonzo and Duke go unpunished for what they've done to Lucy, under the circumstances Dr. Gonzo's phone call to Lucy is a tolerable outcome for her. If Lucy remembers Dr. Gonzo fondly once she becomes sober, she won't feel rejected and hurt after her encounter with him. If she remembers him with anger, she can take solace in knowing he is being beaten severely by Las Vegas security staff. In the meantime, she is safe in another location, not subject to anymore of Dr. Gonzo's behavior or manipulation.

Dr. Gonzo's moral flexibility becomes more apparent, and potentially disgusting, with the introduction of adrenochrome. He claims this substance is obtained through murder, and he seems to be okay with that as long as it gets him high. In the previous three chapters, Dr. Gonzo has committed and covered up a rape. In this chapter he doesn't commit murder; he may not even condone the murder. The story of the drug's origins appears to be exaggerated, possibly fabricated by Dr. Gonzo to shock Duke. If Dr. Gonzo does believe the adrenochrome has been obtained via murder, he seems indifferent to the source of the drug. The chemical and the high it provides are his primary focus.

Moreover, the adrenochrome's origins are further tainted by where Dr. Gonzo got the bottle. As a defense attorney, Dr. Gonzo is correct that even the worst offenders are entitled to legal representation under the Constitution. In this respect, he performs a valuable service to society. From a literary standpoint, his revelation about the client who gives him the adrenochrome just adds an extra layer of moral depravity.

Adrenochrome is a real substance synthesized by oxidizing human adrenaline. It is used in medical treatments for blood disorders, but no one is killed to obtain it. Its psychoactive properties have been studied but never fully verified. Dr. Gonzo may or may not know this, but he goes with the murder explanation anyway when he tells Duke about the drug. The exaggeration provides shock value for Duke and for the reader, providing a hyperbolic illustration of how far the pursuit of altered consciousness can go.

Duke's description of the restaurant shows another example of how Las Vegas, and America in general, treats those who don't fit into the mainstream. Even Duke uses the common epithet for homosexuals when describing the scene, though he may be doing so ironically. Four against one in a fight is indefensible for any reason, but the violence reflects the intolerance suffusing this society. Duke and Dr. Gonzo's casual reactions to witnessing this scene show their own desensitization to the suffering of others.

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