Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas | Study Guide

Hunter S. Thompson

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Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas | Part 2, Chapter 9 : Breakdown on Paradise Blvd. | Summary



Chapter 9 is a direct transcript of a conversation Duke and Dr. Gonzo have at a taco stand just outside Las Vegas. Their quest for the American dream takes them to the small town of Boulder City. At the taco stand Duke and Dr. Gonzo argue about the quality of the food because it is very cheap. Dr. Gonzo wants to know if the tacos are authentic Mexican tacos. He advises Duke to get the chili burger. When Duke protests, Dr. Gonzo advises the taco burger.

Duke and Dr. Gonzo tell the waitress they are looking for the American dream. The waitress asks Lou, the stand's cook, if she knows where the American dream is. Lou thinks they mean a place called the American Dream, and believes it might be the old Psychiatrists' Club on Paradise Boulevard. She tells Duke and Dr. Gonzo "the only people who hang out there is a bunch of pushers, peddlers, uppers and downers, and all that stuff." Dr. Gonzo thinks this might be the place, and Duke asks what kind of place it is. Lou says it is a "mental joint" where "dope peddlers" hang out. Lou and the waitress give Duke and Dr. Gonzo complete directions to this club, a large black building full of "twenty-four-hour-a-day violence, drugs."

An editor's note at the end of the chapter says Duke and Dr. Gonzo locate the remains of the old Psychiatrists' Club, "a huge slab of cracked, scorched concrete in a vacant lot full of tall weeds." The owner of a nearby gas station says the place burned down three years ago.


The real-life recording of this conversation appears in the 2008 documentary Gonzo, a recounting of Thompson's life and work. The film reveals this conversation, along with Duke's escape from the Mint, is another element of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas that took place in real life as depicted in the book. The chapter is a true transcript of a tape that exists, and the use of the transcript calls necessary attention to the chapter where Duke and Dr. Gonzo find the American dream.

The tape can be verified to exist; hence, the chapter is nonfiction. It provides an excellent look at the principles of gonzo journalism in action. Duke and Dr. Gonzo aren't just conducting an interview or observing and recording someone else's behavior. They have inserted themselves into the interaction, but more importantly they have constructed their end of the conversation to result in a specific plot arc. They make Lou and the waitress comfortable with their banter about the food and its authenticity, although this is an argument that begins in the car before they pull up to the stand. Dr. Gonzo asks about the American dream in a way that leads them to believe he is asking about a location, so Lou and the waitress treat their guests as if they want directions to a location.

In later interviews Thompson talked about the old Psychiatrists' Club serving as the end of the quest for the American dream in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. For Duke and Dr. Gonzo, a 24-hour location filled with miscreants and drugs does sound like a place they would find appealing. Lou's description of the location reveals how civilians feel the same way about drug users as the attendees at the district attorneys' convention. At any rate, the discovery that this building has burned to the ground indicates the American dream is officially dead and over. Thompson sneaks in the political significance of its burning down three years before they visit. The timeline means the American dream burned down in 1968, the same year police turned against protesters at the Democratic National Convention and the same year Richard Nixon was elected president. For Thompson, those events signified the death of the American dream, and he constructs the climax of his story to coincide.

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