Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Summary and Analysis of Part II: Chapters 5-8


Chapter 5

Duke's attorney calls Lucy and tells her that he has defeated Duke in a duel. To get rid of the young girl for good, Duke's attorney tells Lucy that Duke cashed a bad check using her as a reference, which means that she must keep a low profile for now. The attorney explains that he’s about to flee the hotel and check into the Tropicana under an assumed name so they can reunite. He ends the phone call abruptly by pretending he is struggling with the police.

Duke and his attorney take adrenochrome, a drug that “makes pure mescaline seem like ginger beer” (131). It is so potent that Duke gets uncomfortably high after licking only a tiny drop off the head of a match. His attorney claims that adrenochrome is harvested from the adrenaline glands of living people. Duke hyperventilates and overheats, all while ranting about harvesting the extract of a human pineal gland to see if it would produce a good high. Duke soon becomes so high that he cannot speak. The men spend the rest of the evening silently watching President Nixon speak on television.

After midnight, Duke regains his ability to speak and the men realize they are hungry. Their dining options are limited because it is Sunday, but they eventually find a diner. Afterwards, they return to their hotel and watch a British horror film, vowing to get serious about the story the following day.

Chapter 6

The next morning, Duke and his attorney arrive at the Dunes for the drug conference. Immediately, Duke notices that the sound system set up around the room is large and outdated. Eventually, the keynote speaker, Dr. E.R. Bloomquist, gives his talk. Bloomquist is a medical professor and anti-drug activist. Duke criticizes the doctor's speech and his writings harshly, noting many inaccuracies in his terminology. As the conference continues, Duke and his attorney become paranoid because they wrote a bad check for their registration fee and there are many cops in attendance.

Chapter 7

The conference continues with films about the dangers of marijuana and mescaline. Duke notices an obese cop and his wife making out quietly. He internally lists some facts about various drugs, and ponders which ones would make the conference more tolerable. Duke's attorney finally becomes frustrated and leaves the conference, annoying many of the attendees as he shuffles through the aisles. Duke follows suit and gets the attendees to clear a path for him by pretending he is about to get sick.

Duke and his attorney reunite at the bar downstairs, where Duke's attorney is entertaining himself by telling a cop from Georgia stories about ‘dope fiends’. Duke's attorney describes how many drug users have become Satan worshippers and are routinely murdering innocent people in California. Duke joins in and his graphic additions to the story horrify the cop. When the bartender overhears the conversation and wonders aloud how the cops are able to handle witnessing such atrocities, Duke's attorney assures him that they love their work and find it ‘groovy.’ This alienates the bartender, but the Georgia cop doesn’t notice. Duke and his attorney continue to spin exaggerated, violent tales about drug users in California, culminating in some of the details of the Manson murders. They confide in the Georgia cop that they behead the worst drug users, and the cop agrees that this is a good idea.

Chapter 8

Duke and his attorney take the car to find some coffee because the attorney has started to vomit. While driving down the Strip, they spot a car carrying two tourist couples. Duke's attorney calls out to them aggressively, claiming that he is selling heroin. He continues to harass the tourists until a man in the back seat threatens to kill him, at which point Duke flees through heavy traffic.

Duke decides that the Cadillac's tires are too soft for "high speed cornering in residential neighborhoods" (153), so he stops at Texaco and pumps fifty pounds of air into them – far beyond what they are supposed to take. However, the car's cornering abilities have not improved, so he returns to add another twenty-five pounds of air. The Texaco attendant warns him that the tires will explode. Duke insists, though, because he considers this an important experiment. As it turns out, the tires do not explode and Duke is able to take the car around corners much more smoothly.

The men arrive at a diner in run-down North Las Vegas. Duke explains that North Las Vegas is where ‘undesirables’ go after they’ve been asked to leave the Strip. He meditates on the relationship between money and power. At the diner, Duke observes that the head waitress is "passively hostile" (158). When she serves the men their food, Duke's attorney hands her a note on a napkin asking if she is a ‘back door beauty’. Infuriated, the waitress tries to kick the men out, but Duke's attorney pulls a knife on her. He cuts the receiver off of the phone so the waitress cannot call the police and buys an entire lemon meringue pie. The men then leave as the waitress watches, stunned.


At the beginning of Fear and Loathing, Raoul Duke introduces himself as a “doctor of journalism” (19). Duke sees himself as an intellectual and a deep thinker, which is an essential part of his identity. His self-image determines how he interacts with other people, and it also helps explain why he behaves the way he does. For example, Duke spends most of the anti-narcotics conference identifying inaccuracies in the "expert" presentations, and he takes great pleasure in lying to the police officer from Georgia. Because of his intellectual prowess, Duke sees himself as superior to other people, and therefore feels entitled to treat them however he wishes. This might explain why he feels no guilt about abandoning Lucy or harassing the tourists from Oklahoma.

Like Duke, Thompson styled himself as a doctor. He received an honorary doctorate from the radical Universal Life Church in the 1960s, and he frequently used the title in his writing and his public life (Edelman and Bromley). Thompson’s critics and admirers alike began to adopt the title, and by the end of his life, even the mainstream press referred to him as a ‘doctor of gonzo journalism’ (The Economist). Considering his real-life experiences, it is possible that Thompson may have been poking fun at himself with Duke’s self-styled intellectualism. On the other hand, giving Duke this characteristic may have been an earnest attempt on Thompson's part to reflect his own personality. Duke speaks authoritatively and mostly accurately about the effects of various drugs, and shows himself to be a keen, if critical, observer of human nature. It is possible that Thompson saw the character’s stubborn of intellectualism as a strength rather than a flaw.

Duke and Thompson’s constant flaunting of their doctoral degrees also raises important questions about expertise and prestige in American culture. Although Dr. Bloomquist holds a ‘real’ degree, he is misinformed about the effects of drugs and the nuances of youth culture. On the other hand, Duke is able to expound in great detail on these topics, even though he does not hold a degree in the subject. During the 1960s, many Americans began to question the country’s most venerable institutions, including its military and its political system. Thompson might be criticizing the higher education system by pointing out that degrees are mere titles and do not necessarily imply real knowledge or intelligence.

Duke may be callous in how he treats other people, but his attorney is actively aggressive. Throughout Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Duke's attorney tends to initiate the pair’s worst behavior. He seduces Lucy before Duke arrives at their hotel, and he is the one who harasses the tourists from Oklahoma while Duke drives. He also pulls a knife on the waitress at the North Star diner. In each of these situations, Duke tolerates his attorney’s behavior and quietly attempts to defuse the situation—for example, by driving away from the tourists or by trying to pay their bill and leave the diner quickly. However, he never actively intervenes to stop his attorney's outrageous behavior. The difference between the two men may reflect their different positions in society. Duke's Samoan attorney frequently experiences racism throughout the text (often from Duke himself), and therefore, may have more reason to be resentful towards mainstream society than Duke does.

In Chapter 7, the men’s interaction with the Georgia cop exemplifies the rampant paranoia about drug use that was prevalent when Thompson was writing Fear and Loathing. The author does not depict the Southern police officer as purely antagonistic; he expresses concern when Duke's attorney tells him the ridiculous story about the McDonald’s waitress. When Duke joins the conversation, he exacerbates the cop's paranoia by discussing the Charles Manson murders. When the Manson murders happened, many Americans viewed the horrific incident as a turning point that marked the end of the 1960s counterculture (Bugliosi 590). Counterculture icons like Thompson likely did not take these claims seriously; after all, critics had been describing the dark aspects of the counterculture for years before the Manson murders took place in 1969 (Weingarten 132).